Monday, April 2, 2012

On Priorities

My parents raised five kids (plus a couple of handfuls of foster kids, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and cousins who always seemed to be hanging about--when I was a child, we had dinner together at the table nearly every evening, and it was not uncommon to be spilling over onto nearby counters, with 9 or 10 or so people eating), which meant that the house was often a mess, that furniture was frequently abused, that children literally climbed the walls, that there were finger and nose prints on every window, etc, etc.  That being said, I think my mom did a remarkable job of keeping the house relatively tidy and training all of us to do the same.  For as long as I can remember, we all had daily chores and usually had extras on weekends, and all of us helped on family chores like laundry and the vegetable garden.  I have very clear memories of my mom teaching me, directly and thoroughly, how to make a bed, how to iron a shirt, how to wash and dry different types of dishes, how to clean mirrors, how to scrub toilets, and how to sort laundry.  There were a hundred other things that I picked up through observation and practice.  Though I never was very conscious of it as a child, looking back I now realize that my parents did the majority of this family-raising on a budget so tight it must've squeaked and groaned.

The result of all this diligent child-raising?  My mother's home is still constantly filled with children.  And I do mean constantly.  All five of those children live within a 10-mile radius of her house (nearly all of them less than a mile) and almost every day, there is some combination of grandchildren playing at her house.  My parents are far enough along in their careers now, and not having to raise kids anymore, that they are able to live fairly comfortably.  But their furniture still takes lots of abuse, there are still people spilling juice or dripping popsicles on their floors, and there are still often little finger and nose prints all over their windows.  We try to be good about cleaning up after our kids, or, if they're old enough, making sure that they clean up after themselves, but its a reality nonetheless.  As much as I'm sure my very hard-working mother would love to have a perfectly-appointed and spotless home (and she does have a nice home that she keeps up on pretty well) I'm so very, very grateful to have parents that would much rather have the mess and the noise than not have the kids around.

Sometimes I look at photos of particular design features or furniture or art pieces that I really like and think to myself, "I'd like to have something that, but I couldn't do it til the kids are out of the house."  And my very next thought is usually, "But I have four kids, so I'll probably always have kids in the house."  It would be very easy to yield to the temptation to be frustrated about that--about never being able to have the house I want without making concessions for other people--but a particular design or furniture set or artwork or what have you would never, ever matter to me as much as the people I love being in my home, and, just as importantly, feeling free and welcome to play there.

I am affected, sometimes quite severely, by the state of my house.  I find it very stressful when there are piles of stuff about, or dirty floors or unfinished laundry piles, and so I try very hard to budget my time and focus to ensure that my house stays relatively tidy and orderly.  But that being said, I also try really hard to grasp those moments when Kylie brings me a book and asks me to read it to her, or Keira grabs a pillow and initiates a game of peek-a-boo, or Keilana asks me why babies think peek-a-boo is so funny.  That laundry pile will always be there (seriously--always) and the floors will need to be scrubbed again tomorrow.

In short, I'm grateful to have been raised by people who sincerely believe the old poem:

"The cleaning and scrubbing
 will wait til tomorrow
For children grow up
as I've learned to my sorrow
So quiet down, cobwebs,
Dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby 
and babies don't keep."

I cherish the time I've spent rocking each little baby of mine, and I find great joy and hope in having watched my mother, my grandmothers, and my mother-in-law all rock babies of mine--a sweet reminder that if I show enough love and attention to the babies I've been blessed with, there might just always be a baby to rock.  I certainly hope so.

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