How to Achieve Order and Sanity Despite Living Amongst Circus Animals
Parents of young children -- especially parents of lots of young children -- face many existential challenges: molding young souls, forming young minds, guiding young spirits, wiping young bottoms.
So, so many young bottoms.
No matter how much you love your life, you may find yourself, from time to time, muttering or perhaps ("perhaps") shrieking, "Where did all this stuff come from? Why do we have it? Do we really have to live this way?"
Luckily, the answer is a resounding, if slightly hoarse-with-panic, "No!" There is a solution! Here are some tips for dealing.
KEEPING AN ORDERLY HOME
Perhaps the largest challenge of all is just making your daily way through the house. I don't mean "finding your way through the graces and pitfalls of your appointed vocation" or "seeking holiness in cozy terrain of the domestic church." I mean just literally walking all the way from the living room to the bathroom without tripping over a jumbled heap of outrageously useless C-R-double-A-ARGH and breaking your poor suffering neck.
What you do, when faced with an unbearable vista of disorder, is this: Walk normally with one leg, but extend the other one stiffly, without bending the knee, and make a lateral, curving motion with every other step. If it helps, visualize a snow plow. This will make a path. Do this often and vigorously enough, and there will be a BIG path, wide enough for you and your husband to amble through your domicile hand-in-hand, fondly asking each other if you can remember what, exactly, you were thinking when you set yourself up for this kind of life that looks so dang stupid on the outside, but which, deep down, really is that stupid
SORTING AND PRESERVING PRECIOUS CHILDHOOD KEEPSAKES
Most, if not all children, are above average in their artistic gifts; and even more of them are beyond generous when sharing their talent. The upshot of this bounty is that parents become the proud owner of enough beautiful, beautiful, beautiful hand-drawn art to stuff enough mattresses to sleep a small, overtired army. What to do with all this art?
Some of it, you will definitely want to save -- because it's adorable, like the one your six-year-old daughter drew, with the mama and the daddy and the little girl all holding hands with hearts flying out of their heads because they love each other; or because you're afraid it will fall into the wrong hands and someone will arrest you. Like the one where there is an army of butts -- yes, walking butts -- lovingly drawn and loaded to the teeth (or whatever) and on the march to go assassinate their teach-- um, I mean, some children these days are just out of control! Where are their parents!
Well, you obviously want to save some of this stuff. But what about the other 99% of it? You feel like an unfeeling monster for tossing "i lov yuo mama" in the trash along with the stinky diapers and cantaloupe rinds, but what else can you do? There's no way to preserve it all; but how can you bear to say, "This one is precious to me, and I will keep it forever; but this one is nothing?"
Here's the solution: You hold up the sheaf of papers and announce to the kids that these papers are VERY VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU, and that you would be AWFULLY SAD if anything were to HAPPEN to them. Within eleven minutes, they will be saturated with something world-shiftingly foul, and you will have no choice but to stuff them all down in the trash as far as it will go, and then make one of the boys drag it outside quick because it's too cold to open up the windows. No arguments from even the most sentimental corners of your brain. Problem solved.
PROMPT REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE
You want the kids to know they can come to you with your problems, and that you are here to help them, to make things better. If you're a good parent, you will quickly amass a huge collection of things that need fixing -- dollar store snow globes that nobody could ever have anticipated would shatter, or a clutch of Nerf darts with the suction cups gnawed off, which you ardently promised, while you were busy thinking about death, that you would be able to glue back together, because dammit, some things in this world have to be fixable, don't they. You want to fix them. You want to fix them all. But there is not enough Gorilla Glue in the world to put these trinkets back to rights. Also, you can't find the glue.
So do this: promptly and without stint or hesitation, say, "Of course I will fix that for you." Then seal it carefully in a sandwich bag, along with its various shards, bits, or clumps, and put it on top of the refrigerator so it won't get lost. The kid will forget about it within minutes. Problem solved. (Until you shove too much stuff up there and one day, someone opens the freezer hoping there's still some taquitos left over, and down will rain a shower of shame, failure, and deceit. But that will be later, so don't worry about it.)
KEEPING UP WITH LAUNDRY FOR ELEVEN
For some excellent tips on how to deal with the challenge of laundry, see here.