Imagination and Mess

My living room has toys all over it. I don’t pick up toys after my sons unless there are extenuating circumstances (or it just really starts to bug me). I will leave the toys where they are until the kids get home from school and can pick them up for themselves. But as I look around, I’m finding traces of their imaginative exploits and can’t help but smile.

  • A rolled up piece of construction paper, a shark, a dinosaur, a lion, a crocodile, and a book about animals. They went on an “expedition” together. The construction paper was their magical map that could show the whole world or just the area where they stood. They were searching for animals who were “living free and in the wild”–a phrase they learned from the Wild Kratts, who also star in their animal book. At different times my living room was North America, my second floor was South America, my kitchen was Africa, etc. They went all around the world together with minimal sibling bickering.
  • Black Widow and a train tunnel. The Avengers saved the day again, though they may have sustained some losses. At least Black Widow has both her legs. The last time I found her on the floor she was a double amputee. It seems the reattachment surgery went well.
  • A big Lego firetruck, an 18-wheeler, and several loose legos. They’re the big sized legos because my younger son is too young for the small ones. Those are hidden away so my older son can play with them while little brother naps. But they still play with the big ones together. I don’t know what buildings were saved or demolished, possibly both, but the evidence of a great adventure abounds.
  • Books. My older son can read, and when he’s feeling generous he’ll read to his younger brother.
  • Pieces of the preschool “build your own robot” set. They built a robot together. It moved, so they chased it and laughed until they ran it into the wall too many times and it broke apart again (it snaps back together, so it’s not broken). I don’t know why only one piece is left. Let’s hope it’s because they already put the others away.
  • Bobba Fett wearing a football helmet. If I remember correctly he was matched up against Chewbacca. I don’t know who won.
  • Pages from the Star Wars day calendar someone gave them. It’s a miracle those are at least gathered in a pile because they were being thrown about the room so the boys could dance through the “paper storm”.
  • The hat from my brother’s old Navy uniform. They protected the “high seas” today.

My sons are blessed with imagination. There are days when I look at the mess that gets left behind after one of their “adventures” and I get irritated. I grumble about dodging their debris and feeling like the walls are closing in. But there are other days when I look around and am so grateful. I’m grateful for the generosity of our friends and family who are part of the reason they have so many things to play with. I’m thankful that they like to play together–even if I have to break up an argument with some regularity. I’m thankful they both are gifted with imaginations that let them travel the world and save the day.

And then I look at my workspace. Blankets, notebooks, pens, bookmarks, books. Even on my computer, my bookmarked sites are nothing but organized chaos. There are separate folders for inspiration and research for different manuscripts, workout programs, music lessons, podcasts and more. It’s my own writer mom version of toys strewn about because I was too busy creating new worlds to worry about keeping it all tidy.

Sometimes feeding your imagination is messy and that’s okay.

The Chore I Hate the Most

baby shoes

I hate to do chores. Well, that’s not really true. I hate the need to do chores. I procrastinate with all the other things that I need to do before I will resort to chores. Call it being messy, a slob, whatever. My step-mom even calls it “But First! Syndrome”. As in, I need to do the dishes, but first I need to answer emails. And then, I need to answer emails, but first I should really make that vet appointment the dog needs and check in on Suzy Q from church who just had her baby to see if she needs me to bring her dinner tonight. It usually ends up meaning I have a whole lot of half done chores and nothing to show for it.

However, once I really get into a chore, I love the productive feeling I get. That sense of pride that something is getting done. That’s what really drives me. Because when I’m done, I take a deep breath and feel better. And I don’t just feel better about my to-do list. I feel better in general. I accomplished something. It feels good.

So while I really dislike scrubbing the pots and pans, I feel good about it being done. I really don’t like to do dishes. Especially since it’s a never-ending cycle of scrub, dry, put away and then a few hours later, get back out, used to cook, and then have to scrub, dry, et cetera all over again. But I do it because, in those few hours between the new cleanliness and the start of the new mess, it feels good. Although, I might have, on occasion, gone out for dinner just to preserve the clean state of the kitchen for a few extra hours. Don’t even pretend you can’t relate.

I dislike doing the dishes, I dislike this particular chore on a level above the others. Still, it isn’t the chore I hate the most. The chore I hate the most is one I only have to do every couple of months. It’s one I’ll have to do every few months, sometimes weeks, for the next several years, and then one day, I won’t have to do it anymore.

I hate cleaning out my sons’ closets. Like all other chores, I love the feeling I get when I know I’m being productive. Unlike the other chores, I don’t procrastinate on this one. As soon as it’s time for one of them to move up to the next size because he has several other things that don’t fit, it’s time for the small stuff to make room for the bigger stuff. However, the feeling of pride over my productivity is often overshadowed by another feeling altogether.

With every piece of clothing I pull out of the drawer, or off the hangers, I realize just how quickly my children are growing up. I realize that those days that seemed long, were shorter than I thought. Those moments that seemed like they would never end, when one of them would cry and reach for me because he needed me to do every little thing for him, are getting fewer and fewer every day.

I get more chores done around the house now. I can scrub pots and pans, do laundry, and even cook simple meals without either of them having a conniption that I’m not standing or sitting right next to him every second. My house is cleaner. My to-do list reaches completion more often. They don’t need me to entertain them at all times because they have learned to entertain themselves and each other.

We still have play time together. We still have reading time together. They still need me to make meals, give baths, kiss boo-boos, and do all the other things that a small child needs a mom to do. But they already don’t need me all the time anymore.

With every pair of pants that is now too short or too snug, with every shirt that isn’t long enough, with every pair of socks that no longer completely covers little feet, one of my children has hit milestones that mean he is becoming more independent. He needs me less.

They are my sons. To some degree, they will always need me. Even if it is just to love them. But one day, that’s all they’ll need from me. And that is so very bittersweet. One day they will be grown. They will have jobs, homes we don’t share, possibly families of their own. They will have these things because each day we (I’m not in this alone, after all) teach them new skills. We teach them right from wrong. We are slowly, each day, teaching them not to need us. Not to need me.

There are still days, usually when I am carrying the youngest into church or the store, when I think, “Little man, you need to learn how to walk because you are getting heavy.” And then I know that one day he will be able to walk, run even, and I will chase after him and wish he was still small enough to carry. It’s already happened with his brother.

I open the box the old clothes go into and look at all the other outfits in it. He was so small once! I remember when he wore this. He woke up every three hours to eat and I felt like a zombie. I prayed he would sleep through the night so that I could, too. I remember when he wore that, he couldn’t crawl yet and would just roll across the floor to get to his destination, which was, more often than not, me. Now I put a new batch of clothes in the box. Ones that I will long for a few months from now. Ones that I’m sure I will weep over someday when I clean out the attic and this is not the only box of things they have both long since outgrown.

As a mother, the days can seem very long. You have laundry to wash. You have dishes to clean. You have floors to sweep or vacuum. You have shelves to dust, towels to fold, toys to pick up, and bills to pay. You have food to cook. You have emails and phone calls to answer. You have a million little things that you need to be doing and you have this little person, this beautiful, wonderful, adorable, hugely needy little person pulling at your pant leg. You wonder, will this phase ever end? And then? It does. It’s over. You still have a million things to do, but that little person isn’t as little anymore and is off doing something without you. It makes your to-do list easier, but your days are shorter. The years are shorter. And that breaks your heart.

I’m proud of every milestone my sons hit. I’m proud of every new thing they learn how to do. But I know just how fast time is going by. I know because those deep, wide boxes of clothes I have for each of them are almost full. I’ll have to start new boxes now. Another box to pack memories into and close the lid on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have chores to finish. I need to do the dishes, but first I think I’ll play with my sons a little longer.