Sometimes Letting My Kids Destroy The House Is The Key To My Sanity

by Sara Keli
Sara Keli

“What happened here?” was the first thing my husband said to me after walking through the door one night last week. I’m not trying to paint my husband as the bad guy here, as I would have asked the same thing if the roles were reversed. The question was legit. There was stuff everywhere. The contents off the dress-up box were spread from one side of the living room to the other. The floor of the playroom was covered in paper and markers, and ribbon adorned the furniture. I looked like a hot mess, and neither of the kids were wearing clothes.

That day had been a disaster. We arrived at our 9 a.m. swimming lesson on time only to find the parking lot full because of a school swimming carnival. Cue rain just as I was getting the stroller out of the car. I dropped my toddler off at her grandparents’ house and raced off with the baby to a lunch. Well, totally disrupted sleep pattern equals a cranky baby. The potty-training toddler topped off the day from hell with an epic number-two accident of which I will spare you the details.

The saving grace of the day was a planned playdate. That doorbell could not ring soon enough. My daughter and her friend were princesses and mermaids, lions and dragons. They hosted a “party,” complete with ribbons and stickers, and of course hand-drawn invitations. It was an afternoon of frivolity and fun.

And while this was all happening, my friend and I sipped our tea and talked. We talked about life and let off steam about the challenges of parenting threenagers. We talked about holidays and work and everything in between. And for the most part, aside from requests for glasses of water, more snacks, and taking a moment to investigate when things got a little too quiet, we were uninterrupted. Before we knew it, it was 6 p.m., and we said our goodbyes only to start the dinner/bath/bed routine.

Some days I feel like I am superwoman, and I can achieve anything. On those days, by some miracle, I get both kids to sleep at the same time. I send off replies to all the emails waiting in my inbox. The house is clean and dinner served at a decent time. Those days are a breeze. I am in control of my world, and it feels so easy.

And then there are the other days. Days where toys end up scattered throughout the house, well beyond the boundaries of the playroom. Where the laundry sits in the washing machine for a third day calling for me to find even five minutes to hang it on the line. Nights where dinner consists of chicken nuggets and slices of cheese. Where bath time is forgotten, and bedtime is far more relaxed than it should be.

I love cooking dinner for my family and looking around to see a clean house. I love knowing that everyone in the family has clean undies to wear this week and gets into a freshly made bed each night. But I also love tea, and friendship, and time to myself. Sometimes I love to do all of these things at the same time. Sometimes I love not having to bark commands across the house: “Pick that up,” “Stop leaving your toys in the hallway” — you know the deal. Sometimes I just want to close the door, locking the mess behind it, and deal with it tomorrow.

At the end of the day, you do what you have to do — whether that is putting your crying baby in their crib and closing the door so you can breathe for just one minute or enjoying a cup of tea with a friend while your kids rip through the house like a tornado leaving a path of stickers in their wake.

What is the point of a clean house if you are left sobbing in the middle of it, exhausted from the strains of the day and the cumulative effect those days can have? Look after yourself just as you would your kids, or your house, or your favorite shoes you keep stored in their shoebox to keep them looking new.

So that night, while I was in the midst of dinner prep and my husband asked that me that question, I stopped to look around. I knew the cleanup was going to take us a while. But I was happy. And my kids were happy. An overwhelming morning had turned into a bright afternoon full of laughter and chatter. So I turned to him and said, “Sanity happened here.”