We’ve been prepping our house to sell, and there just isn’t enough coffee in the world to get this done.
My husband and I are overwhelmed with an endless list of things to do—carpets to replace, floors to refinish, a porch to paint, walls to touch up. I’ll stop because this is boring. But you know, it’s all the little (and big) things that add up to a ginormous monster of a thing that you will never, ever finish as long as you live. It’s all stuff we meant to do, but then we had four kids, and if you have kids or have ever met a kid, you know kids ruin most of your stuff. If you don’t have kids but plan to, I’m confident you will one day say the words, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” (The mantra of parenthood.)
So like many parents before us and other to come, we gave up on our stuff. When we bought our sofa, our main priority was finding something that would be easy to clean should the kids throw up on it. Which they did.
That said, things like the hole in the pantry door, the drippy pipe under the kitchen sink, or the fully-formed, greasy handprints on the living room walls—over time, they kind of fade away. Unless something is doused in bodily fluids, it can wait, and it does wait, and before you know it, emptying the bowl of leaky water that collects under the kitchen sink is just another chore on the list.
Four kids = survival = feed and clothe people, clean up the poop, and everything else is gravy. (I’m sorry for writing “gravy” and “poop” in the same sentence.)
Who has the time to do anything else?
But now we’re selling our house, and the scales have fallen from our eyes. We can see the gashes in the sheetrock, the chips in the paint, and they are EVERYWHERE.
But the kids, they’re not really into home improvement projects. They don’t watch HGTV, so they don’t appreciate we’re trying to STAGE THE HOUSE here. All they know is most of their toys are in storage, and my hands are usually covered in wet paint these days. For kids, this is prime condition for brawling.
It is maddening. They’re constantly karate chopping one another or arguing over pancake syrup (???) because this is what kids do when Mom has wet paint on her hands or she’s on an important phone call. I swear to my husband I’m going to auction the children off on Craigslist, and I mutter under my breath about how I can’t get anything done, ever, can’t I just finish this one thing without being interrupted 18 bazillion times?
The answer is no, I can’t finish the one thing. Yesterday the children played outside while I plugged away at the trim paint in the kitchen. They were pushing one another on the swings but not pushing one another OFF the swings (an important distinction), for which I was grateful. But it wasn’t long before I heard it—“Mama!”—followed by tears. A skinned knee or a bumped head, no doubt. I sighed and set down my paintbrush, irritated by the interruption. I longed for my mother to come take the kids away to her house so I could get some actual work done. If I could just get them out of here, just for a little while…
That’s when my 3-year-old, the baby, came barreling inside with an unspecified injury needing ice, cuddles and kisses on the bottoms of both dirty feet (only your mother will do this for you). He climbed in my lap with his sippy cup and asked between hiccups for me to sing the “Jesus Wuvs Me” song.
“Peez, Mama? Peez?”
I sang the song, and my paintbrush got crunchy from neglect. It’s going to take forever to finish the trim.
I needed the reminder, though, of why I’m doing this, all the DIY projects. The move is for our family, and the kids are the reason behind it. Not because they gashed the walls or messed up the trim—which they did—but because we want a space that works better for our family. The kids aren’t the interruption, they’re the life.
I needed the reminder again about an hour later, and then later that evening, and also today. I’ll probably continue to need it until the kids have grown and left me, at which point I’ll miss the days I kissed a runny-nosed 3-year-old’s dirty feet. I doubt I’ll remember the crunchy paintbrush that never came clean. I hope I remember the little feet.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day.” -C.S. Lewis
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at email@example.com.)