Last night, after I got done arguing with my son and daughter for almost an hour to do their homework while also distracting our preschooler so my wife could finish cooking dinner, we cleared the table of origami, text books, and snack bowls, so we could all sit down for a family dinner. The table was still a little sticky with, well, who knows what.
Norah, my middle daughter showed up to the table for dinner with the headpiece from an old unicorn Halloween costume, grinning. The rest of the costume was likely scattered around the house, but it didn’t matter. She was adorable. She used her magical horn to turn our chicken tacos into candy. Not that she was actually successful, but it was hilarious, and all of us, even the grade-schooler had a good laugh.
After we blessed the food, we talked about school. We talked about how to improve for next year, and if any of those low grades could be brought up. We talked about signing up for gymnastics next school year, and our trip to Disneyland in the next couple weeks.
Behind us, the kitchen was a veritable disaster zone. In fact, it would be difficult to find an uncluttered strip of counter space. Our living room floor was clear, and our bookshelf was organized, but that’s only because it’s the first thing anyone sees when they enter our house, and we want to keep up a good presentation.
Because here’s the thing: if anyone took a good tour of our home — a real, uninterrupted walk around — they’d find a lot of messes. They would surely find an random pair of skid-marked underwear my son happened to leave on the floor, along with some open dresser drawers and unmade beds. They would have to watch their step because of all the toys. They would find crumbs and maybe the remnants of this morning’s breakfast. All the art and school work that was on the table might be moved to a back bedroom, along with the baskets of washed, but unfolded laundry, that originally occupied the living room chair.
And while it may seem like our mess translates to us failing at this whole parenting gig, that honestly isn’t the case. In fact, I think we are pretty good parents. I think that Mel and I have bright kids who talk to us openly about everything from friendships, to desires, to future wishes. I think that we have kids involved in extracurricular activities. We have kids that won’t go to bed without a dozen or so hugs and kisses from mom and dad. We laugh all the time in our house. Our kids are really enjoying their young lives, all of it, all that awesomeness is inside a cluttered, lived in home.
And I will be the first to admit, when I first started out as a father 10 years ago, I often wondered why our home was so messy. I made a lot of excuses when people came over because I didn’t want to be judged. I felt a lot of shame. At times, I even blamed my wife for our mess, something I am not proud of, and have sincerely apologized for. It took me awhile to peel back the layers, and realize that we were raising three really bright wonderful children with strong morals and good senses of humor who behaved well in school despite our messy house.
So if you are reading this at your cluttered kitchen table, or in a living room with a stack of half-folded clean laundry on your coffee table that is, forever, a work in progress, I get it.
Sure, your house is lived in. Sure, you are at your wits end trying to get a stubborn boy or girl put their dirty laundry two inches to the left so it actually lands in the basket. Sure, you long for the day when your little boy, the apple of your eye, will actually hit the toilet bowl rather than… well… everywhere else. But chances all, you have bright wonderful children who you love more than anything in the world. That’s what really matters, frankly.
I’m not saying that if you have a clean house, you are doing something wrong. But what I am saying is don’t judge families with messy homes and wonderful children, because chances are, they are doing a lot of things right.