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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Normal Kids + Non-Psycho Moms = Messy Houses

Point us in the direction of the white love seat, please.
I love to read my friend Jackie’s Facebook posts, because she has two little girls and they are ruling the roost. Thanks to the magic of social networking, I can watch those two kids take over a household inch by inch. Today Jackie said: “I’ve decided that the only way to keep my house clean is to not let my kids play with anything - ever.” It’s pretty entertaining. For a bystander.

My kids aren’t little anymore but I can remember being overwhelmed with tempera paint stains on the carpet, a toy box held together with duct tape that was one of the nicer things in our family room, and homework answers carved into our kitchen tabletop. And once someone brought the bubble mower in the house and nothing was ever the same again, until we moved.

I wanted a nice place to live, but I didn’t want to be one of those moms who had rules like “No Play-Doh in the House” or “Leave Your Shoes at the Front Door Like the Japanese Do” and who never let their kids play with anything - ever.

Although now that I think of it, I knew a lot of moms who were very much like that and their kids ended up turning out just fine. It’s not fair, really, when they got to have white carpet in their living rooms, highly breakable urns, and lots of No Touching zones and their kids didn’t turn out to be mental because of it. At the least, their kids should have required some expensive therapy to put us all on even footing and the same quality furniture now.

I think I was as laid back as I was because I had good role models. My own mom was pretty messy and she didn’t let dust and dirt keep her from putting on another pot of coffee, lighting up a Chesterfield and doing a crossword puzzle.  I once painted a large appliance box pink in our back yard. Neighbor kids kept coming by, so I’d run inside, take off my paint clothes, put on a regular outfit, play for a while; back home, put on the paint clothes, paint some more; another kid would come by . . .  The first time I didn’t bother to put my paint clothes back on I got pink paint all over a nice play outfit. My mom said, “Oh, Diane” and put on a pot of coffee.

When I got my own home and my sisters came to visit, I had to make sure things weren’t too clean or they would make fun of me. I loved their visits. I didn’t have to prepare at all.

And one time the Carpet Emergency Hotline Lady brought me back to reality after I flipped out over green paint on the family room rug.

I was crying when I called her. Crying. MY KIDS SPILLED GREEN PAINT ON MY CARPET! OH MY GOD! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? IT’S EVERYWHERE. (It was everywhere. It had gotten tracked in and there were green smudged footprints leading from the huge blog of paint right across the middle of the carpet.

She calmed me down and assured me it would come out.

And then I said, “I’m never going to let my kids paint in the house again.”

“Now don’t you say that,” the Carpet Emergency Hotline Lady said. “You should be proud to be the kind of mom who lets her kids paint in the house. You let them paint and we’ll get out this stain.”

And we did. And I did.

Sometimes we’d host a playgroup and if a new family came, the mom would sometimes say, “Kids! In the basement! No kids upstairs!” And I would say, “No, in my house, the kids can play right here. With their shoes on.” I was revered by all the kids and the psycho-moms thought I was stupid. But the shoes were actually necessary. You could break a toe on the toys that were lying everywhere.

I miss those kinds of messes. Now, if my house is messy, I don’t have anyone to blame it on.

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