November 4, 2015
Maple syrup. What kind of insanity prompts a mother to even allow syrup in a home occupied by five children?? The deliciousness must be worth it, because that stuff can’t stay put. Inevitably, on the mornings when I lose my mind and actually serve maple syrup-drenched pancakes to my collection of small people, some will drip off a fork or a plate or a mouth and land on the counter or a lap or the floor. And then…THEN…we get to see the bizarrely exponential growth of syrup in action, because, for some reason, my kids don’t have a little alarm that goes off in their heads when they touch something sticky, the alarm that says “Hey! You’re sticky! Fix that immediately!” So one child touches the syrup on the counter or steps in the syrup on the floor and then touches every other surface in the house, and the other kids who didn’t touch the original counter-syrup and floor-syrup touch the syrup that’s been spread around, and then they become syrup-spreaders as well. Maple syrup is the Ebola of breakfast foods and my kids are patient zero. (Too soon? Sorry.)
I know messes are an occupational hazard of having kids, but here’s the deal, kiddos — I like clean messes. I like when the floor is vacuumed and the counters are dusted and the windows are spotless and there’s an aesthetically pleasing spill of colorful LEGOs on the floor with a tower of creativity rising out of the middle. I like when there are papers and crayons and pencils spread all over the table, evidence of artists at work, in an otherwise pristine dining room (because how can you even enjoy coloring when there are crumbs on the floor all around your feet??). I like when all the Transformers are set up in mock battle, or all the My Little Ponies are set up in mock…whatever they do…chitchat, or all the Matchbox cars are lined up nose to bumper down the hallway, as long as those are the only things that are out. The battles and chitchats and car rallies lose their charm when there’s also used Kleenex and Band-aids on the ground, and toyboxes dumped out and never put back, and dirty socks on the coffee table and video game controllers on the couch and blankets and pacifiers strewn about the ground and MAPLE SYRUP EVERYWHERE. That Clorox commercial with the kids playing make-believe in the bathroom was marketed straight at me, because I want the bathroom that is all white and shiny and sparkling and perfectly safe for kids to play in, not the real one that has water spots on the mirror and toothpaste spots in the sink and pee spots all around the potty and wet towels on the ground that may or may not be hiding scorpions underneath.
I’ve recently heard a few different people say that they like seeing children’s handprints on windows, because those prints serve as happy reminders of the precious little people they belong to. This idea blows.my.mind. If you’ve been in our home, you know that we have one room that is quite long, and one of the walls is just a series of windows. Correction: one of the walls is just a series of fingerprint-covered windows. I have stared and stared at the handprints and fingerprints and blowfish marks all over these windows and TRIED to feel any small amount of fondness for them but it’s no use, I feel no fondness. Not even close. The only thing that keeps me from wiping the windows down every time I walk by them is the knowledge that it’s such an exercise in futility. As every parent knows, clean windows are magnets for sticky fingers, and Windex is to my children what blood in the water is to sharks, and the smell compels them and they come and press their hands and faces against the glass like it’s their prey.
So, I don’t like messiness. Obviously. And so one day Todd was like “Hey, you know how you don’t like messiness?” and I was like “Yeah, totally,” and he was like “I think we should foster,” and I was like “YEAH, totally!” And I thought that maybe all of a sudden I wouldn’t mind messes anymore because they would be evidence that we were pouring our hearts and souls into a beautiful and broken child, and who cares about messes when there’s so much LOVE? Well, you know who still cares about messes? Moi. There are more hands than ever smearing my windows, and it’s not just the physical messes anymore but also the emotional ones, and our girl spreads her emotional mess everywhere like it’s spilled maple syrup.
It’s ironic (or maybe it isn’t) that our girl, with her messy life, is also quite literally a really messy person. Like, a REALLY messy person. What’s that little phrase? “Ordered home, ordered mind”? Neither her home nor her mind are ordered, poor thing. And just like the kids, whose maple syrup-y fingers and toes make everything else maple syrup-y, our girl’s emotional messiness makes everything else in her life messy too. We’ve done our best to clean the sticky fingers of her life, but her emotional hands are not so easily washed. And now, it seems that we are running out of time to help her out with that. As our time with her begins to draw to a close, I’m going to do what I feel unable to do with fingerprint-smeared windows: I’m going to try to ignore the mess, and just love and enjoy the girl who’s making it. Because just like the maple syrup, along with the mess there’s a sweetness. She’s left her fingerprints all over our lives, and the time for cleaning them all up is not now. Now, I’m going to savor the sweetness and love the precious little person they belong to.