Chaos and Cheerios

I stepped on a Cheerio again. Ugh. I hate stepping on Cheerios. As it smashes underfoot, I am aware of the pulverized Cheerio dust that will now be traipsed all over the floor to only have to be swept up with a broom. I try to shake it loose as I drag my foot on the kitchen rug, which will now have to be vacuumed. I loathe sweeping. But, with twins and two young boys, I sweep about four times a day.

Which made me think of my childhood. I tried to remember if I ever saw my Mom with a broom.

Um…Nope.

I stepped on a lot of Cheerios in my day.

Then I started thinking about what a mess my house probably was when I was a kid and how old I was when I started noticing. DISCLAIMER: I mean no disrespect to my Mom. She and my Dad raised five spectacular, independent children. She worked a full-time job and made it home most nights for dinner and a martini with my dad and a good night kiss before bed, but the cleaning… well… if my older siblings didn’t do it, it wasn’t getting done!

I remember one time, as a rather rambunctious five year old, I thought there was a Styrofoam peanut on the kitchen floor and I jumped on it. It wasn’t a Styrofoam peanut. It was a hunk of broken white milk glass. Insert shrieking cry here! I believe I had to get my own bandage and clean my own wound, but the pain clouds the memory.

As I said, the house wasn’t passing Mary Poppins’ white glove test. I don’t even think it would’ve passed the Surgeon General’s test, but it was our home. And I loved it. I was proud of it. There was no place I would rather be on any planet in any galaxy. It was a wonderland! We had 8 acres and my Dad carved out trails for the ATV in the summer and the snowmobile and a tobaggon in the winter. He cleared a field for badmitton and whiffleball. We had an in-ground pool with a diving board. We even had wild berry bushes that grew along our driveway. We had a swingset and a chicken coup (wolves ate all but 1 tough old bird named Martha, but that’s another story). There were endless trees for climbing and swinging. We even had croquet!
I know, you’re thinking, “who are these people, some hybrid mixture of the Von Trapps, the Bradys and the Waltons?” Well, to me, we were! Sure, we didn’t sew our own clothes or ask Davy Jones to the prom, but I loved our home (and we did used to say “Good night John Boy” a lot. Hey, it was the ’80s!) Or maybe my good memories outweigh the others, but my smashed Cheerios got me thinking about the kind of childhood we are providing for our kids. Do they love our home as much as I did as a kid? When will they start to actually see the “mess hall” for which I lovingly call our home for the mess that it is?

When I was a kid, I rarely went to other friends’ houses that didn’t make me miss my own. I’m sure my house probably had a funny smell just like my friends’ houses did to me. Wait. I know my house had a funny smell. It was dog pee. Rarely could you wake up in the middle of the night without needing a light on because it was a land mine to get across the living room floor. But it was our smell. And when it didn’t smell like dog pee, and the numerous caustic chemicals my mom used to clean the pee, it smelled like home.

It makes me wonder. Does Charlie miss the smell, the feeling of our home when he’s at his friends’ homes? Or is he happy to shake us loose and pretend we don’t exist for a few hours?

I’m sure there’s  something to be said for the selective memory of my childhood. Perhaps my mom did don a broom more often than I remember. Perhaps those berry bushes had thorns that pricked me when I picked them. Perhaps in addition to swimming in the pool, I also had to vacuum its muddy bottom. It’s funny how the mind tends to forget the mundane.

I’m hoping the same holds true for my own kids.

When we pull up to our house, I see overgrown bushes, a grass infested driveway and siding we swore we’d paint when we moved in six years ago. The boys see “our brown house” (that’s literally what they call it). They say good-bye to it when we leave and hello when we come home. I’m pretty sure Finn thinks it has a face. He thinks it’s the best place on Earth. As we drive by our neighbors’ houses (some sizably larger and more ostentatious than ours), Finn always says, “Our house is better, right Mommy?” And when we walk in the front door, back into our chaos, Finn always says, “There’s no place like home, right Mommy?”

Each time the babies reach new milestones, I am painfully aware of how fleeting childhood is. Finn won’t always unknowingly quote “The Wizard of Oz.” So for now, I have to hope that my kids will always feel the love our house represents instead of its mess. A friend recently reminded me  and said, “Children before chores, the relationship comes first.” I couldn’t agree more. I hope when my kids get older, they will appreciate my Cheerio encrusted floors and our strong relationship!

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