A little over a year ago one of my neighbors visited our home to take a look at our newly finished basement. She was pregnant with her first child, while we were well established with our three boys. And our basement well reflected our status as parents of several young children. There were toys and books everywhere, and you could tell by the look on her face that she was flabbergasted by our mess. The reason I recognized the look so well was that I used to wear it quite frequently before I had children of my own.
Before I had children…I swore my house would be neat. We would only have a few toys, age appropriate of course. The boxes would be neatly stored and my kids would play quietly at the table. They would never fuss and we would be in tune with one another. I would never turn on the TV and my children would speak a second language, fluently, by age 5.
Then reality hit. Family members gave the boys tons of toys, often things I would never have dreamed of. And I loved to buy them those little trinkets that would put smiles on their sweet little faces. How could I deny them? When my oldest was diagnosed with autism I realized learning Spanish or Chinese was going to take a backseat to just learning to talk. Every time our therapist suggested a toy or object to help him progress I was the first in line to find it. Our collection of “things” just grew and grew. After baby number 3, I was just happy if the bathrooms were OK for visitors and the boys had on clean clothes. Making sure we made it to therapy was much more important than keeping a straight house. I didn’t worry so much about keeping the toys in their boxes or the books on their shelves, although sometimes I regret the chaos. Teaching a child to hold a conversation just seemed so much more important than keeping his toys neat.
A few months ago I stopped by my neighbor’s house. Her daughter is a year old now. She made a few apologies for the mess, then turned to me and said, “I don’t know how you do it with 3 boys!” I’m pretty sure that look will not cross her face again anytime soon, even though she swore her house would never look like this.