This week I’ve been stomp-my-feet-and-cry frustrated about the state of my house.
I get that houses are to be lived in. I understand that the influx of five, six, or, like yesterday, nine people is going to require a fairly high level of upkeep. I know that the dirty floors, the tossed jackets, the spilled books are all signs that things are happening and that I’m surrounded by the people I love.
If I were the Pollyanna type, I would sing songs of thanksgiving whenever I’d spy a dirty dish: thanksgiving for the dish that held the food, thanksgiving for the food that fed the body, and thanksgiving for the body that ate it. Rapturously clutching the dirty dish to my bosom, I’d twirl around the room, luxuriating in the realization that, because of this dirty dish, I might possibly be the richest person in the world! But then I’d twirl-step on a tea towel that some love-of-my-heart child tossed on the floor, my foot would screech to a halt while my body would keep going, and I’d crash to the floor with a thud. Then I’d lay there, thanking my lucky stars (that are suddenly—whoa! look at that!—visible) that I even had a floor upon which I could break my fall.
That’s what I’d do if I was Pollyanna.
But I’m not Pollyanna. In fact, my mood is such that if Pollyanna walked across my path, I'd probably sock her a good one.
Or else hand her a toilet bowl brush and tell her to get to.
All day long I maintain. I assess the status of my home, create a list of chores, and then oversee the kids doing the chores.
That sounds a lot easier than it really is. Here’s how it actually breaks down.
I see a dirty bathroom sink. I tell a child to clean it. I check the “cleaned” bathroom sink and determine that my child needs to learn how to wield a rag. I call the child back in and teach a lesson in Basic Sink Cleaning 101.
Or, I have a child wash the dishes. Later, I empty the drainer. I find dried egg on a fork, grease on the bottom of a bowl, starchy gunk on the outside of the oatmeal pot. I set aside the soiled dishes, call the child into the house, and have the child wash them again.
By themselves, those two examples don’t sound all that bad. In fact, you’re probably thinking way to go, Mama, being consistent and patient and all that jazz, right? (Note: nobody said anything about being patient.) But! Multiply those scenarios times four (‘cause I have four kids, get it?) and set it on auto-repeat for hours on end and you can see why I’m a little worn down.
The other day I walked into the bathroom and saw that my freshly washed window (I’ve been trying to wash a few windows every day—it’s my gradual approach to spring cleaning) was completely smeared.
As I studied those smears, my chest constricted. My head ached—nay, my very bones ached. I exhaled and all the hope and perseverance whooshed right out of my body. Eyes smarting, I pondered my options. I could:
1. Wash the window myself.
2. Assign a child to wash the window.
5. Shut the blind.
6. Complain to my husband.
7. Do nothing.
I chose Option Number Six.
My husband was in the kitchen. I wasted no time in sharing what was on my heart. “I can hardly stand it!" I wailed. "There are messes everywhere! I hate all the stuff in my house! I want more bookshelves! The girls’ room is a mess! Nobody puts their clothes away! We don’t even have a broom so we can sweep the porch! There are no steps to the attic! The flies are driving me nuts! You worked late on Monday! The potatoes didn’t come up! There’s a mouse in the stove again! I want a new camera lens! I only have one pair of blue socks! The sofa has a hole in it!”
“What do you want me to do about it?” he asked, his voice level, his eyes laughing.
“I want you to get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning and clean the house!” I sniffed. “Clean everything.”
When I came downstairs the next morning, the house looked right sharp. Granted, it looked that way for only a few hours, but with that little boost I was able to make it through till the end of the day when I start yelling about how I can’t STAND the mess and how I can’t DO this anymore.
Hopefully I’ll feel better next week. ‘Cause the messes sure ain’t going anywhere.