My house, however, is not so lucky.
When we moved into our home eight years ago, it was pristine. The fashionable contemporary house had been decorated sparsely and painted a sterile white on the interior. The inhabitants had installed white wall-to-wall carpeting to match their white dog, and they insisted that visitors remove their shoes to keep the carpet spotless.
When they invited us over for a tour, the owners had shown off their shiny wooden cabinets -- lovingly polished with Tung Oil -- their fancy shrubberies that liked being watered just so, and the place in the basement where they kept their stash of extra supplies for the house, in case we needed additional tiles for our kitchen, a replacement window, or extra paint to touch-up a blemish. We watched in surprise as the wife stopped mid-sentence during our visit to pick an invisible piece of fuzz off the pristine carpet.
We couldn't believe our good fortune. We marveled at the full basement, which was completely empty save for a small dog pen with three boxes sitting inside. My husband and I playfully joked about how the owners were so obsessively neat that they even put their boxes in a cage! We were thrilled to be buying a beautiful, well-kept home... one that we could build a family in.
For the blissful two years that followed, we enjoyed our stylish domicile, decorating it to our taste. Glass vases sat on the tables, proudly displaying their hand-picked bouquets, and fragile decorative items lounged on various surfaces. Expensive handmade Amish tables and hutches furnished our common rooms, and we spent evenings languishing on our overstuffed chairs and plush sofas, mixed drinks in hand.
This delicate balance was bound to be upset by the addition of youngsters, although at the time we really had no concept of the degree to which children could destroy a home.
Actually, the first damage was not done by our children, but by our cats. We had three at the time, and they habitually vomited steaming piles of orange-and-brown slime onto our white carpets. When professional carpet cleaners failed to remove the stains, we purchased decorative area rugs to hide the blemishes and told ourselves things weren't that bad.
Then, one day, one of our kitties knocked over a scented oil diffuser, spilling sweet vanilla oil all over our Amish dresser and stripping the finish off in uneven swirls. I cried. Our other furniture soon fell victim to the house's younger inhabitants too. When my son was eighteen months old, he picked up a square ceramic coaster that I had mistakenly left out and repeatedly smashed it into our expensive coffee table, using the corner to gouge chunks of wood out of the table's polished surface.
That same table was later stained hot pink by a construction-paper flamingo that my son spilled juice on and then abandoned. Today, the table bears childrens' stickers, the stains of multicolored snacks, and scribbles frantically made with a stolen Sharpie.
Our kitchen floor sports a giant piece of clear tape, permanently lodged there as a reminder of my son's "tape phase," during which he abandoned all toys in favor of unrolling package after package of Scotch tape. He would wrap it around furniture, stretch it from room to room, stick it to walls, and, only occasionally, use it to affix two pieces of paper. We have tried in vain to remove the tape from our linoleum, but all we've succeeded in doing is mangling it and making the edges that much more obvious.
Our rustic wood-burning stove, once the majestic focal point of our family room, now shrinks into anonymity behind the child-gate that we installed to keep the kids away from it. Our walls bear the scars of other gates that were installed with the best of intentions, only to be brutally ripped down later by a child in the throes of a sugar rush.
Our once-handsome wooden cabinets are now faded, chipped, and banged; the cabinet doors under the sink hang slightly askew. There are scribbles on the walls and unknown objects hiding in the dark depths of the heating vents. Our carpets are no longer white, but instead resemble the splotchy, damaged skin of someone who has spent a lifetime getting too much sun. Just this morning I caught my daughter holding her juice box upside-down with the straw removed, shaking the berry-flavored contents all over the carpet and further contributing to its mottled look.
We used to really enjoy having people over; we would have dinner parties and gatherings because we loved entertaining in our comfortable space. Now we feel compelled to apologize to everyone who comes through the door, excusing the mess and the clutter and making sure they watch their step lest they get impaled by a Power Ranger action figure or slip on a Matchbox car.
The destruction continues, as it undoubtedly will for many, many more years. We probably haven't even seen the worst of it yet. We used to be so proud of our home.
It's when I'm feeling really down about this that I remind myself that we have something much more important to be proud of -- our children. After all, no matter how many times we polish our cabinets or shampoo our carpets, our furnishings will never draw pictures of our family (festooned with hearts and rainbows) and proudly present their artwork to us. We won't get warm snuggles from our sofas, kisses from our carpets, or love from our lounge chairs.
Sure, I often get discouraged, and at the lowest times I can be heard wailing, "Why do I even bother trying? We'll never have anything nice again!" But deep down, I know that the trade has been more than fair. Our house bears the marks of destructive little children... but they are happy, spirited, loving destructive children.
For all the exasperation we endure as we watch our house get marked up by little hands and stained by muddy little feet, I have a nagging feeling that someday I'll miss the marks on the walls, the toys on the floor, and the juice boxes threatening to spill.
Someday I know we'll have our immaculate house back. But honestly, I'm not in that much of a hurry for that day to come. My house may be filled with disaster, but all the destruction is living proof that we have love and joy in abundance.
How blessed we truly are!
|Artwork by Evan, 4 years old|