Bleach is a monthly, if not weekly item on my grocery list. Don’t worry, all the natural lovely smelling essential oil mixes and blends poured into spray bottles that live on the shelves screaming at shoppers to be healthy and buy them too, make their way into my cart as well. My house is clean and I work my buns off to keep it that way. Sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the baseboards with vinegar and behind the sink faucets with an old toothbrush is as part of my daily routine as drinking coffee. I function better when the space that I live, work, mother, eat, sleep and play in is clean.
That being said, my house is NOT tidy. As much as I would love for it to be as put together (or put away) as the house that I grew up in was, the family that I’m raising just does not allow for that. This isn’t because they aren’t required to do chores or pick up after themselves. No, all that is required. It’s because in this home creativity blooms. Like a garden where flowering plants grow and spread throughout their space, our home sings praises of children whose imaginations are at work and whose little hands are busy drawing, creating, building, and experimenting with anything and everything in their space.
My daughters draw, color and paint to life characters from books, cartoons and the ones that their growing imaginations give birth to. They write stories and songs and make notebooks for each other. They built mailboxes out of construction paper and tape and hung them on each bedroom door so that we have an incentive to write love notes to one another. Life for them is a canvas and they are the markers. The bold, unwashable kind.
My son is not into drawing and coloring like his sisters, but he manuevers oragami through his little hands as if he were a professional. He grabs his notebook from his backpack while the girls are doing art and fills his homework journal with extra entries so that he can get ahead in school. He creates math problems for his sisters (for fun) and searches the corners of our house for spiders and any critters that need to be examined, carefully, and then returns them to their natural habitat.
My youngest daughter returned from a playdate yesterday to let me know that her friend, “has a dining room table and it’s really clean and they sit at it to eat”… For a minute that second guessing, mom guilt punch in the gut had me question my parenting style. Is it bad that we eat at the kitchen bar instead of what should be our dining table? Should I, as my own mother had urged me to do before, keep my dining room table perfectly clean and clear so as to fit perfectly into the mold of what a clean and tidy home should look like? Should I remove the tray of markers, pens, crayons, glue sticks, scissors, rulers and paper from the table and tuck it neatly away within the depths of the hall closet where it will see no use? Should I replace the stickers and tape and sketch books with a tv that would hang neatly on our wall and keep the kids preoccupied from such mess inducing adventures?
But I won’t.
I have no goals to audition for a space within the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I don’t even read it. My ambitions do not include impressing others with how tidy and decorated our living space is or how perfectly our house is put together. Yes, I keep it clean and yes, a picked up floor is important to me, but I will not remove the everyday little opportunities for creativity and hide them away just so that I can feel good about how other people view my abode.
This is our living space. We create. We play. We talk and read and write to eachother. We sit at the table not for dinner, but to illustrate books together and write love notes to friends and family. Sometimes we use glitter. We vacuum the floor only to scatter cards, games, and math flashcards all over it 5 minutes later. We dust the china cabinet that is filled not with china, but with coloring books and painting utensils.
We’re not a one size fits all family straining to shine in the culural norm. We prefer to swim against the tide instead of letting it carry us out to sea where we would lose sight of our bearings. Home is where the heart is and so suffice it to say that if the heart isn’t happy at home, it’s not going to be happy elsewhere.
Let them be little. Let them be imaginative and let them marvel in creating and transforming materials in their hands. Let them move through activities and creative play and discover passions that are just waiting to be unlocked. Let them, at the end of the day, come home to a place where they can live and manuever comfortably while their minds seek and explore the adventures in which their ship is the table and the pen is their sword.
The fancy housing magazines and decorative homes can have their perfect table cloths and centerpieces. We like ours just the way it is.