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I’m surrounded by evidence that I have four children. In my house. My car. My garage. Even on my stained clothes. Depending on the day, my inner pendulum swings between embracing the mess and resenting every crumb-maker in my family.

Yesterday I looked at the kitchen floor and saw a trail of popcorn. An unknown culprit, leaving behind hints of a snack. In my mind evidence that the offender believed the maid (aka me) would get to it soon. Because what does it mean when someone makes a mess and leaves it? That they assume someone else will clean it up. Clearly! (But really not always.)

I am a terrible housekeeper. I can too easily step over piles of toys, clothes, shoes and keep on walking. I long to be the woman who must stop and pick everything up before she can move on, but alas, not me. That doesn’t mean the mess doesn’t bother me. It most certainly does. But I’ve created coping mechanisms to deal with it. Work-a-rounds that allow my family to still eat despite a bit of craziness. (I’m also easily distracted and quick to procrastinate. Does not help in the mess management department.)

Some might say I should just stop acting the Merry Maid and my children will eventually learn to pick up on their own. Oh the fear that sets in about the level of pigsty that might just become our home if I allow that. I shudder to think what type of Lord of the Flies chaos will ensue and I will not risk that.

Yesterday’s popcorn incident was one of those moments on the pendulum swing when I looked at the popcorn on the floor and felt my shoulders tense up a bit.

Why? Why must I be the one to clean up after everyone? 

And then I remembered a few months ago when my eldest daughter quoted me back to myself, “Mom you say you’re okay with the mess because it means we live here. So why are you getting so mad? Do you wish we didn’t live here right now?” I’m sure I snapped some response like, “Oh I’m glad you’re here, I just wish you’d all clean up after yourselves.” Mostly I was struck by my own wisdom.

The mess does mean people live here.

There may come a time when I put down an iPad and it will stay there until I move it again. A day when I put leftovers in the fridge and will be sure they’ll still be there until I’m ready for them. A phase of life when the only laundry I’ll have to do is my own.

I want to cry just thinking about it. Yes, the mess means they’re still here. Still here for me to cuddle, sing to (or in my case squawk to), cook for, and yes even to clean up after.

So I know I need to train my children, as a good mother should, to be independent little people who know how to do laundry and are able to put things away. But in order to fight the potential resentment and rage, I want to remember that in a few years (AHHH!) one will be on her way out.

The mess is starting to look a whole lot better.

alex-2Alexandra Kuykendall
As a mom to four girls, ages 3 to 12, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She writes to capture the places where motherhood meets everyday life to remember the small, yet significant moments in the midst of the blur. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir, a contributor to  Be you, Bravely, An Experiment in Courage and acts as the Specialty Content Editor for MOPS International. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at