Last night, when Jim and the children were all out together on their weekly Tuesday Daddy Night, I spent some time cheerily cleaning my living room.
This is what the room looked like when they'd been home an hour or so...leftover dishes, laundry and out-of-season clothes strewn about the floor with half a ream of paper, mostly scribbled on in assorted colors, because Annalise brought out her art kit and did some exploring.
There have been many weeks, even lately, when I've grouched, growled, and grumbled about the weekly Tuesday-night mess. I've let them know, in no uncertain terms, that I felt done wrongly by.
Last night, though, I was still processing some wonderful advice received in an unschooling chat on Monday, and I had had such fun cleaning up, that it just didn't bother me the way it might have. I mentioned to Annalise that it looked like she'd had fun, and did she think she might like to help me clean up in the morning, because I was too tired right then. She agreed, happily, and that was that.
This morning, both kids slept in until after 2pm. So, once Jim went to work, so did I. The living room was just as messy as it had been last night. Reminding myself this was just a moment in time, and that the mess was the result of fun: art, snacks, exploration, and a mini-marshmallow fight, I set to finding first a path, and then order.
It took 9 minutes to tidy the room enough that I could feel comfortable in it.
Nine minutes. That's all.
All that energy I've been expending in complaining about it has probably taken up HOURS of my life - DAYS? Maybe even WEEKS! Add in all the hours I've spent, over the years, trying to force, cajole, shame or otherwise coerce the children into cleaning up after themselves, and it seems like a great deal of wasted energy, indeed...maybe enough wasted energy to write a book every month, if I wanted to!
So I decided that, today, I would let go of the past. I cleaned the room last night, because I chose to. I like the way it looks clean, and, when I'm home alone, I get to enjoy it for a while, alone.
I've found that taking pictures of our day both grounds me and adds a layer of connection to my relating with the kids.
So, rather than make a fuss or get angry, I decided to see the living room's everchanging whirl of activities as an evolution of our day. I documented every time I felt stressed by the seeming chaos...
Somewhere along the way, though, I had an epiphany...
All this time, I have complained about the mess, complained that they don't even see the mess. And I missed the point completely.
It's not that they don't see the mess. It's that, to them, it isn't a mess at all, any more than the bins of clothes I'm trying to find the motivation to sort through, or the jumbled seasonal decorations, are to me.
I've been ridiculing and judging harshly their lives-in-progress.
I'm not going to do that anymore....
Because, compared to my children's well-being and happiness, does it really matter if the room looks like the room above, in the midst of the happy chaos and noisy peace of our life, or like the one below, after another nine minutes of tidying....
So, today, I am deeply grateful...grateful that I've realized that this space isn't mine to command, all the time. I'm grateful for the happy day way just spent in and out of it, and that I didn't really care whether it was tidy, or not.
And I'm grateful, too, that, when it does get to be a bit much, I know that only 9 minutes stand between me and relative living-room sanity, and maybe I can be more willing to bear with it until the right 9 minutes come along...and, until then, I will gratefully use my energy for other things...like loving these remarkable little living-room occupants I've been blessed with!