Monday, February 24, 2014

Motherhood, Messes, and Kidnapping the Babysitter

Motherhood, Messes, and Kidnapping the Babysitter

There’s a popular meme that says, “Good moms have messy houses and happy kids,” or something like that. I disagree.

In my college days, I was a bit more, well, relaxed. As those who knew me (and definitely those who lived with me) can attest, I loved clothes, I had a lot of them, and I usually left them hanging around the room. Laundry day proved a brief respite as they were swept into my white plastic basket and carted to the JOA basement (Saint Joan of Arc Hall, for those not in the know) for their bath, and then the cycle would repeat. I had piles of books, stacks of notebooks, and bulletin boards full of photos. Having lots of my things around me, in college, was a comfort.

And now? It’s stifling. My son’s toys have multiplied and left their bastard children everywhere (and I mean everywhere, including the hamper, the tub, and one of the cabinets). The ghostly form of my daughter’s gi leans in a corner, snidely observing from a distance. The clothes from yesterday’s ski trip are crawling across the floor in an attempt at freedom, and while my kids had a great day yesterday and I know we made a lot of memories they will have a fun time recalling, I just can’t think in this space.

It’s not just the physical messes. Sure, I am consciously deciding to gift my friends’ children with gift cards because the idea of giving a toy with multiple pieces that can be strewn about seems counterproductive to friendship. And yes, though I have girlfriends on both ends of the house spectrum (meaning homes half my size, or double my size), we all agree that there is never enough space for all that we accumulate.

But it’s the mental messes as well. I know I should put the Inner Perfect Mom who wants a glossy, crumb-free home out of my mind, and I should be fully present in the moments of play with my children. But instead, the multitasking mom in me sees this as a challenge. Thus, I try to make up new and creative games like “Bitty Baby Says: We Can Throw Out These Old Puzzles” or “Fashion Show for Donating Clothes.” It’s awful.  I want to spend time with my kids playing with a clear head and heart. But some days I can’t.

Life is messy now, and I know that I have to understand that. For example, John Sawyer, in an attempt at challenging his sister’s newfound athletic ability, is competing in the Active Toddler Olympics and has medaled in Disarming Baby Locks, Opening OXO Cookie Containers and Silently Devouring the Contents, and Throwing Things in the Trash. Chasing him is my cardio, and it’s exhausting.

And it continues to get messier. Last week I attended the wake of a dear friend’s father (a friend for whom I would - and did - literally give the clothes off my back ten years ago, and now, we blindly roam the rows at Target at 10 p.m.). So when I heard her father had passed, I wanted to make every effort to pay my respects. In this case, it meant picking up my babysitter, taking her for a ride with me and the kids so that I could attend the wake, and then driving her home on the way to meet my husband for dinner. A bit complex, but definitely doable.

Unless I drove to the wrong location of the funeral home chain. And then got stuck in traffic on the way there and back from the actual location. And then rescheduled the dinner reservations. And then got stuck in another monumental traffic jam. And then had to bring the poor babysitter with us to dinner. And then realized the set menu at the restaurant was less than appealing to most people, including said babysitter, whose intended two-hour stint turned into a four-hour one. And the beat goes on.

If it’s one thing I am learning about being a parent, it’s that the planned moments often implode, and the sublime ones appear without warning. As one who has always enjoyed a happy surprise, I look forward to the next one.  But I’m saving my extra cash for the babysitter who I paid double that night, and who, luckily, is still speaking to us.

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