About 4 years ago, Brian came home a little later than to be expected from work. The kids who hadn’t seen their Dad all day were thrilled as he walked in the door. They ran to him in their footie jammies with their damp hair from being just newly bathed and hugged and kissed him.
Meanwhile, I was cleaning the kitchen after having made the fifth meal of the day, a supper of chicken, rice, and a vegetable. I had a warm plate in the oven for my dear husband. Brian watched me sweeping rice up from the floor. For any of you who have had little kids and had to sweep up rice from the floor, it is the worst. THE WORST.
My husband said to my oldest who was just 4 at the time, “Is Mama ok?”
He asked because as I was sweeping that sticky uncooperative rice from my kitchen floor, I was tearing up. Of course, he was the only one who noticed my silent welling of tears, because when you have three kids who are 4, 3, and 2, they don’t notice such things when Dad walks in the door. He sent the kids upstairs and told them to read books until we came up, and sort of tip toed toward me and said, “Sooooo, how was your day?”
I replied curtly, “Well, this is the 9th time today I’ve swept the floor.”
He responded still unsure of my current mood, “Ummm, and this is bad right?”
“YES! This is bad! I cannot keep up with anything!”
He said, “Keep up with what’s important, Erin. How about, tomorrow, just sweep once at the end of the day. Or how about not at all. It really doesn’t matter, just feed the kids from the floor. That is where it all ends up.”
His comments at the time made me laugh, and made me feel a lot better. Thank goodness for Brian making me laugh. When he said, “Keep up with what’s important.” I didn’t really know what that meant at the time.
I was very much caught up with life with three kids so close together, who were all home with me. Let me tell you, it was utter chaos for so long.
Every day for many years was like sweeping the floor Nine Times times a day.
Sweep up a mess. Someone drops cheerios. Sweep up that mess. Someone drops blueberries. Sweep up that mess. Someone drops noodles.
You get the picture.
It was hard to keep up with these babies and toddlers.
As soon as I would think I was done with a stage, or with a pile of laundry, or cooking a homemade pureed baby food meal (how stupid I was), or a size of clothes from Rubbermaid tub, or bottles, I would be delivering another baby, or potty training someone else, or pulling another tub of hand me downs out from the basement, doing laundry or cooking or cleaning or SWEEPING THE FLOOR FOR THE 9th TIME THAT DAY!
At the time, I thought I was keeping up with what was important.
Last week it happened. My youngest started full day Kindergarten.
I’m home alone, you guys.
And I’ve kind of noticed a trend. I have a bit more time in the day to myself, but…
Today as I write this, I look around and I have a To Do List a mile long. There are dishes on my counter. I have laundry piled up (clean to be folded and unclean to be washed). I have soccer uniforms that need ordering. A doctor’s appointment to make. Not to mention, now the kids get older there is a whole host of issues and homework and stages and fun(?) that I need to keep up with. Also, we’ve added my full time career to the mix. Not to mention, I probably still should sweep the floor, but I haven’t touched it yet today.
There were days when I had three little ones crawling/scooting/toddling around and I would be sweeping that floor for the 9th Time That Day and I dreamed of the light at the end of the tunnel. The day all three of my kids were in school all day and I would have all this time to get things done and focus on our home. I would say things like, “I cannot wait until the kids are in school all day and I can clean all day and make our home lovely for them.” or “I cannot wait until the kids go to school so I can focus on making the perfect snacks and when they get home we can blissfully play board games and read stories around the fire place like a magazine.” or “I will never have to sweep the floor 9 Times A Day again.”
I’ve learned a little bit over these last few years. The dishes and the laundry and the Legos and sweeping the floor 9 times a day really doesn’t matter. I have the rest of my life to clean. I wish I could go back and say to myself 4 years ago crying silently as I swept that sticky rice from the floor, “Erin, put down the broom and smell your kids baby shampoo scented heads and snuggle their footie jammied pudgey bodies.”
I’ve lived a little and learned a lot.
This is what I know now:
The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t that the mess is gone. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a pretty house. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a perfectly laid out snack after school. The light at the end of the tunnel is being ok with the messy kitchen floor. It is not caring about the trivial. Brian was right those years ago, I needed to keep up with what’s important. (That’s right, Brian, you were right.)
I literally have seen the light. I know what’s important. Sweeping the floor 9 Times A Day is not Important.
So, tonight when the kids get home (from soccer and various other things) we will gather around the dining room table (after moving aside my laptop and take home folders) I will put together a dinner (from the slow cooker) and we will eat and talk and clean up together and maybe play a game of cards. Brian and I will do some laundry after the kids go to bed (the bare necessities), then we will quickly order soccer uniforms (before heading to bed ourselves) and perhaps I can sweep the floor one time (tomorrow)… if there’s time after I snuggle my kids.