I truly am not the best house cleaner. My husband and I joke that he should be the stay at home parent while I go to work to provide for us. Not only is he the more fun parent, he also has some magical touch that the house looks extra clean when he does the tidying. Unfortunately, he doesn't touch dirty dishes or clean toilets so there goes that plan! I am getting better over the years as I learn routines that work for us and more efficiency, but the truth is, our house is never spotless. My house will never be in a magazine, nicely decorated with things in perfect places.
The evidence of kids living here are etched into the walls and furniture no matter how much I wipe and wash. It's in the lines of red and black from cars zooming down the stair railing. It's in the chocolate tiny toddler finger prints along the living room hallway. It's the scuffs in our entryway floors from toys being tossed over the railing. It's the chalk rainbows and names lining our deck's boards. It's on the smiley face and little car drawn on the builder-white walls upstairs. It's the never-can-get-it-really-gone pee smell in the half bathroom!
And my kitchen table? It is kind of embarrassing, honestly. I dread having people come over and have a meal there. There is dried applesauce encrusted along the detailing of the edge — time of which to really scrub with a pointy object I hardly have. The white top is covered in marker, spilled paint, and pen drawings as if we forget to use paper. I make excuses and say, “Don't mind the table, one day I will get to repainting it!” Which, I do intend to do. Ya know, in all the spare time I have of caring for 4 kids, growing another, and expanding my writing career.
When I get a burst of extra energy to tackle some of the extra evidences, I do find some joy in removing them. There is something satisfying of having clean walls again, or painting over the chipped edges from the toy shopping cart and strollers hitting the corners during a race around the house. But one day, when I get around to mixing some chalk paint up in a pretty new color to cover up the art filled kitchen table we gather round three times a day, I think I will be a little sad.
While it looks unsightly and is an embarrassment compared to others’ clean tables, I can envision myself still hesitating with a brush over those marks. Hovering with a loaded brush remembering the person my talented 9-year-old drew on it, the epoxy dot from when I made bottle top magnets for a birth mothers retreat, or the pink stain that is my 3-year-old's favorite color. Years of crafts done with glitter and various forms of color — some which have wiped away and others still showing the leftovers. I can see myself teetering between wanting to savor these young childhood years yet ready for a fresh life for the table. I wonder if that is why I have never made time to paint it.
No, my house is never truly clean, and the evidence that four children live here are all around if you look for it. Sometimes I get mad about the extra messes and feel bitter over the pen marks and food wiped on what should be my personal desk. But, really, it comes with the territory of having kids. I know walking into a friend's house I am not looking at her finger printed walls in judgement, but in grace knowing that her home is lived in like mine. Along with the finger printed walls bounce laughter as children play and displays the size of my tiny 1-year-old's palm. I wish I could frame that tiny hand print instead of wipe it away, when have I made time to make hand prints to keep?
Sometimes we have to look at the messes with new eyes of what a treasure we have in this motherhood thing. If not for our own sanity to handle the imperfections, but to accept these young years for what they are. These messes are evidence of our children being creative and not watching TV all day. It is evidence of them using their imaginations, playing together, using their talents, and crafting. It is evidence of a gift that not everyone has. These pieces of evidence will one day stand alone with grown children gone away. We may paint over them or wipe them away, but some will stand the test of time and bring back memories of their youth to flutter our momma hearts with a time past.