I consider myself a fairly neat and tidy person. Some (my husband) might even say I’m a clean freak. I like order and I live for organization pin boards showcasing all glass container pantries or color coordinated craft closets.
But little people, though small and seemingly weak, have magical super powers when it comes to their ability to turn a warm and welcoming home into a small war zone.
When it comes to organizing our small house, and the growing number of kids’ clothes and toys, I’m constantly working hard to find solutions. In general, I’m careful to not buy too many toys and if we do purchase new things we’ll try to get outdoor toys rather than indoor toys since they can be hidden in our yard or garage. (Plus–fresh air is good for kids and we live in mild climate, so why not?) Inside the house, all our toys with lots of pieces are kept on high shelves and they have to be “checked-out” one at a time. Anna’s plastic eyesore of a play kitchen with a million parts? It’s in her closet for easy access but it can also hidden away when not in use. Our living room has a few chic baskets and boxes hidden behind our furniture which hold toys. At night after the kids go to bed, I pick up any and all remaining toys, light a candle, take a deep long breath, (perhaps grab a glass of wine!) and pretend no children live here.
But there’s one thing I rarely do, and I’m going to challenge you to do the same.
Don’t clean your windows.
When Anna started walking her little fingerprints appeared everywhere. Our backyard french doors were covered in prints, as was our new stainless steel refrigerator. The front window, which looked out on the street, was by far the worst. Every morning and evening she banged on that window to say goodbye to Daddy on his way to work, and when he returned I would hold her up for waves and hellos. Her lips, tongue, and peanut butter coated fingers left love trails I couldn’t keep up with.
One weekend after I took Anna to see my parents–Granna and Grand-dude as they’re so lovingly referred to around here–my mom called to debrief our time together. She said something like, “I looked out our back window today and noticed Anna’s little fingerprints are still there. They made me smile and I didn’t have the heart to wipe them away. Those are things you appreciate now as grandparents.”
If there is anyone who likes a clean house and some resemblance of order more than I do, it’s my mom. And I love this about her. But I also love that she gave me a beautiful reminder to slow down and appreciate the chaotic mess of toddlerhood. These days, their little fingers seem to be all over everywhere and everything. They leave trails of Cheerios and water puddles all over the bathroom, and trains strewn across the living room. There is sand ALL OVER my car and dollhouse pieces in my bed and if I step on one more raisin with my bare feet… well… you know.
And yet someday their fingerprints and their puddles and their raisins won’t be around anymore. I won’t find all her Thomas trains “puffing” along the window’s edge. Instead, Jonathan and I will settle for quick e-mails and text messages, and dinners here and there. These messy kiddos won’t always be messy kiddos. Their time in our house, dirtying our furniture, is temporary.
So while I can’t handle my living room looking like a war zone at all times–who can, am I right?— I resist the urge to Windex their fingerprints off my slider door and living room windows. At night when I sit down and kick my feet up, their fingerprints help me remember that children live here and it’s a really, really wonderful thing.