When my children were little and I would find sticky spots of who-knew-what under high chairs and on doors and …everywhere, I remember thinking that once they got to a certain age, I would need to simply hose down the entire house.
The logic behind this was that, at that “certain age,” my children would be cleaner, neater, tidier.
Um, when is that stage?
They’re all in double-digits now, and I still feel like dirt and sticky substances literally drip from their fingertips and feet. I can clean a kitchen countertop so squeaky I would be fine eating right off it, and two hours later I come back and it looks as if a family of small animals has been living on it for several weeks.
They’ve grown more autonomous, which means they can do things like fix meals for themselves, but it also means that ketchup, flour, hot dog “juice,” bits of banana, etc.! can be slopped across the floor, in the fridge, under the microwave, behind the sink…
And since they eat all the time and anywhere, let’s add “in the couch and on the rug and on the windowsills…”
If they are capable of fixing the food, of feeding themselves, are they not also capable of seeing the mess it creates?
And how, honestly, does a person make that much mess simply pouring a bowl of cereal? How is that even possible?
My inner “martyr mom” tells me they see at least some of the messes they create, but they assume, maybe even unconsciously, I will clean it up.
But I don’t think “seeing it” is the entirety of the problem. I am discovering there is a great chasm—Grand Canyon-sized—between my idea of “clean” and theirs.
“Wipe the countertops, please,” I ask.
When they are finished, it looks to me no different than when they started, but when I bring the offending child in to look, and I point at the offensive countertop, he or she responds, “What? I cleaned it.”
THAT is not clean!
Surely this will get better, right? I have this terrible image of my children, in their 20s, still blissfully unaware of the messes that follow them everywhere they go. This makes me want to create some giant plastic bubble suits into which I can zip them, with a little slot for me to pass food inside. All the slop will be with them in the suits and when they get disgusted enough with it (if they even notice it), I could send them outside to unzip and shake and hose down.
At times the state of our house gets to the point that I see nothing but the dirt, and every crumb-pile and crusty plate and spill in our house seems as if it’s jumping up and down, shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!” That’s when I go on a little rampage, pointing out all the gunk to whichever of my kids happens to be around. But even though I think the evidence of their slovenliness is quite overwhelming, all they do is look at me with that expression on their faces that tells me they think I’m losing it and probably need to see a doctor.
I wonder if they will ever notice or if I will be cleaning up after them when they visit me in their 30s. And usually at this point in my thinking, I indulge in a little fantasizing about a clean house, a tidy house, with everything arranged just so, staying just so.
With my introvert self being too quiet in the middle of it.
And I find I am grateful for my house being exactly the way it is.
Dirt and all.