Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keep on Shoveling

"Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." - Phyllis Diller

Right before Jesse was about to turn one, I couldn't find her favorite book, "Bunny, My Honey," a sweet story about a baby bunny who gets lost.

I just about ransacked our small apartment before our babysitter, a young New Age-y aspiring actress, grabbed me by the arm and told me to get a grip on myself (all the while, she had quite a strong grip on me!)

"Let go of the book," she commanded. She didn't mean it literally, of course. She meant that I was getting overly fixated on one item rather than focusing on my daughter's upcoming birthday.

Of course, I ignored her and continued to scour the apartment until Avo I finally found the damn book hiding under Jesse's crib. "Bunny, My Honey!"

All at once, everything was again right in the world.

A year later, we visited friends of ours with a toddler daughter of their own. After the girl went to sleep, the mother busied herself by tidying up toys. Well, not just tidying. It was more like categorizing. She shelved the books according to author. She placed the Little People figurines in their homes (and tucked them into their beds). The process went smoothly until she couldn't find her daughter's favorite doll.

"Where is Kimchee?!" she asked over and over until we all wanted to tell her that Kimchee was dead.

But instead of slapping some sense into her, we helped her look for hours until we finally hit the sack and encouraged her to do the same. When I woke up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I caught a bleary-eyed glimpse of my friend still searching for that doll. By the time she found it the next day, she had forgotten why she cared so much about it in the first place.

I've loosened up since then -- and after a few more kids, my friend has relaxed a bit too. For the most part, my kids' games and puzzles still have all of their essential pieces. But I no longer dress their Barbies before tossing them into the toy bin and we have way too many books to worry about just one that may be missing.

In other words, unless you want to be a neurotic mess (or pay a lot of money to house cleaners), you've got to lower your standards of neatness when you become a parent (not that my standards were so high to begin with!)

And, of course, any pop-psychologist would tell you that sometimes a book or a doll is not just a book or a doll. In these cases, we're not just looking for the missing object, but, rather, we parents are really looking for some semblance of order amid chaos...which we probably won't find until our kids are grown and hopefully, out of the house.

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