Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Destructive Little Devils

On most days, I feel like I'm handling this motherhood thing okay.  Sure, my hair hasn't been trimmed in about three months and my bangs now resemble what my mother used to refer to as "a fright wig."  And yeah... maybe my pedicure-deprived toenails resemble torture implements, but at least I clean up well.  It might take a bra with a built-in cantilever system, jeans with a tummy control panel and a bathing suit made by NASA, but if need be, I can hide the evidence of motherhood's damage to my body. 

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

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  1. I laughed. I nodded in agreement (our house is looking worn for many of the same reasons). And I smiled at the beauty of your post. Thank you for articulating this so poetically!!

  2. Thank You for visiting My Site. www.CouponAnna.com . Your Right The Picture I Have On My Site Is Just Beautiful . I Wish I Was Their Too! Anna At Least I Can Wish .

  3. I enjoyed this post even though I can't empathize - no kids in my household now. Am following your blog and would like you to follow me. Found your blog on BSN.

  4. So funny and true. Once my two youngest finger painted the carpet and stone surround to our fireplace with food dye. I called the carpet guy. He said it wouldn't come out. I told him it would because I'd prayed over the carpet. It came out. A great day was had by all.

    Thanks for the terrific reminder that wear and tear on my home is really a symbol of the love that lives here.

    Visiting from VB! www.shannonmilholland.blogspot.com

  5. Sorry to tell you but, my kids are 17, 20 and 20 and still destroying the house!!! But, like you, they are far more important than a perfect house. I wouldn't trade them for the world. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

  6. This is so true! It reminded me of when my daughter found scissors and cut the kitchen floor. The animals were fond of my couch and love seat. Great blog!

  7. you always make me laugh out loud and smile. where i can't sympathize with the kid's messes yet, i was cracking up at the orange cat puke. we have 3 kitties, one who inhales cat treats at the speed of light and then likes to heave them up in various spots around the house.
    thank you so much for your sweet comment yesterday. i really appreciate it <3
    wishing you a happy wednesday! :)

  8. Awwww...! What a sweet blog post. And something that I was just struggling with yesterday. I look around and see gross carpets and crayoned counters and what used to resemble beauty now looks a lot more like BLECHHHH! :) But you are right...and I love how you put it, "We won't get warm snuggles from our sofas, kisses from our carpets, or love from our lounge chairs." Our children are SO much more important than any 'ol picture perfect house. I'm not gonna lie, I still try to get it to look somewhat "perfect" (to me) sometimes because it's just in this girl's nature to at least TRY...nevermind the failing part. Oy. Anyway, thank you for the reminder that love covers a multitude of sins (aka juicey cup spills - we have lots of those too). And thank you for your comment on my blog yesterday! Happy to 'meet' you! XO

  9. I absolutely l LOVE this post. You are a great mom & you even eased my own frustrations with your words.

  10. I love this post. It is so true. I can't even remember how many times I washed crayons and markers from carpets and floors. This is why we buy a cage, so at least if kids are gonna reap havoc on the home, it'll be in a designated area.

  11. 'Kids' and 'Immaculate house' just don't go together. As my brother in law always says, it's your choice...Do you want a museum for a house, or a REAL lived-in home? :-)

  12. I love this! In our house I'm contantly wondering..."Where is that smell coming from?" But its those smells...disgusting or not...that make it our HOME :)

  13. Sometimes I look at my house and think about how messy it is.....and my son in only 9 months old! Thanks for this post - it had me laughing!

  14. Hi! How are you? Just stopping by. Following you from Thursday Cup of Joe Blog Hop. Would love a visit and a follow back on my blog: http://blog.writerslairbooks.com. Thanks!

  15. I'm not in that much of a hurry either, although it can be exasperating, can't it? LOL Just wanted to let you know that I've given you an award. You can pick it up here:

  16. Our children will remember the happy times we spent together, not the times the house was dirty or clean.

  17. Oh, so true. My house used to be my caste, so to speak. Now I'm just waiting until I can have carpet without stains, furniture without stains/tears/dents and be rid of all things destructive!

  18. You have a wonderful blog and I love it.
    Thanks for visiting me,
    Bushra Syed:
    Already following you.

  19. Soooo true! I actually just wrote a post about the lovely messes my toddler likes to make ;) ahhh the joys lol. But I'm sure we wouldn't want it any other way...

  20. my bubby and I have not purchased a house yet but we will be soon. I can really relate to you on the carpet stains! We have to get ours cleaned every 6 months! I am now following you from the hop and would love a follow back over at http://mizzreviewlady-mommyreviews.blogspot.com/

  21. Hmmm.... let's see....

    -Wall scribbles, Check.
    -Coffee table distruction by chemicals and art supplies, Check.
    -Irreversible floor damage, Check.

    Looks like the only ones you haven't hit yet are hair cutting (their own, their siblings, or yours), falling/jumpingoff something resulting in what seems like a major injury to you but probably isn't really, and being fed something that isn't food while you are asleep or half asleep.

    Hang in there... you are almost there!

    *big grin*

  22. I used to think our dog was destroying our house...now I realize that was only the warm up.

  23. Yup, they are all worth it, huh?! I'm a new follower from the New Friend's Blog Hop.

  24. What a fun, well-written post! Children are very much like untamed, wild animals - they are destructive, emit aggravating noises and sometimes even bite, as my own cling-bean did, Lala musings: Lizzy the Biter , but of course it is all worth it. I love your pragmatic, accepting viewpoint on the destruction of childhood: “Someday I know we’ll have our immaculate house back” – I agree! You sound like a great mom. I am a new follower from the FNF blog hop and look forward to following you along your misadventures. ;-)

    Lala :-)

  25. This is amazing - it could be my house!

    New follower - love your blog!

    Find me at www.insightfulmommy.com

  26. Yes, makes me remember my own cat-vomiting-on-our-carpet days! And most days, when my baby spits up on our carpet, I'm so glad that we're renting (and have to get the carpets cleaned when we move out!) --Christine visiting from VB

  27. I've struggled with this too. It's hard to stay in the moment when there is clutter and chaos all around. I re-frame it by seeing the destruction as evidence that the kids are having a blast. And that's what a kid's job is.

  28. i have 4 kids so i understand
    new follower

  29. I love this post. It sounds like my home! :)
    I'm returning your follow from The Cup of Joe Blog Hop. Thanks for linking up with us.

  30. I loved your post! You are SO right, I'm not in a hurry either to get my house in immaculate order. Their messes are precious, if not a little stressful! :D Loved the "tape phase" reference.


  31. I think most parents would agree with you. Isn't it funny how things change? I remember having a spotless place, where I would pick up and scrub every tiny little thing. However, I must admit I can't blame it all on my son.....Hubby can definitely take some of the credit. ;)

  32. Oh its a heart warming post. Our couch is also all messed up because my son loves to take his snacks there. And his toys are everywhere in his room. We let him get away with it as long as he does his share of packing up. I don't even want to think of the future when he goes away for college. Haha.

    Following and Visiting from the Bloggy Moms. I would like to hear from you too.

    Best Regards!

  33. Haha, my oldest is still in her "TAPE IS THE BEST TOY EVARRRRRRRR" phase. I'm beginning to wonder if she'll ever grow out of it! I'm glad I found you through Bloggy Moms. You can find my salty blog at http://acenterintheinsanity.wordpress.com

  34. I thought my daughter was the only one that was tape obsessed. Whenever I have to tape up a package to mail she says she wants to play with the "shiny" which is what she calls it.

    Shanan (new follower)

  35. Lately I feel like my house is truly falling apart! This summer alone: My hot water heater broke, we had to have a plumber out for another occasion, we got a new roof and gutters (insurance wouldn't cover because a new one was needed when we bought the house), my dryer stopped working (hubby fixed that) and now we're painting the outside of the house. I sometimes want to scream. No reason to though. It will all be ok.

    I'm following you from VoiceBoks.

  36. WoW! I had no idea you lived at my house! LOL! Great post, especially the message at the end -so true! I am your newest follower from the Weekend Blog Hop!

  37. The Lord giveth you your children but taketh away your clean white carpet. I guess that's about even. Great post!

  38. This was a great post to link up to Messy Mondays! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I too feel the need to apologize to people when they come over, especially if they are NORMAL (read: people with no small children at their ankles.) But you are right, the mess and the clutter are signs that there is WORK going on here, very important work no less.

    And so I will ignore it when it is not done, to play in the rain with my children... or to spend an hour on my own writing/blog therapy :)


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