Some of my favorite books and plays when I was growing up were about large, crazy families with lots of people doing lots of interesting things. I couldn't get enough of them. (I, one of two children, also fantasized about living in a large family, but that's another post all together.) Think You Can't Take it With You. Even as an adult I am still drawn to the same genre. One of my favorite books to read aloud is Surviving the Applewhites. I love reading about a family (albeit a slightly dysfunctional one) where everyone has special interests and pursues them with abandon. It's very similar in fact to You Can't Take it With You, except that everyone is competent in their pursuits. (And it also has the "let's put a play on in the barn" theme. Someday I'm going to have a get a barn so my older children and their friends can put on a play.) I'm pretty sure that all of this reading has strongly influenced my parenting.
I do love to see my children engaged in activities that they find interesting, and usually I'm happy to support them. I also love that usually they are able to entertain themselves in unique and creative ways. I consider it a good day when children have been busy doing things they find interesting. However... at no point in any of the books I read growing up did they mention the wreckage left in the wake of people intently engaged on pursuing their interests. It's as if in the fictional world, there is an invisible mess fairy which follows everyone around cleaning up after each of the characters. And I want one.
Because the trouble is, children who are engaged and interested in play and projects leave a trail of flotsam and jetsam behind them that is fairly significant. And then when you multiply that by 10, well... where's that mess fairy?
I don't really think I would trade a pristine house for all of the projects and activities. I find them all too interesting. (And truthfully, I am in a little part responsible for some of it.) Some day the messes will get picked up... I hope.
What are some things going on around here? Well, there has been the gardening, of course, with the piles of brush and the very large stumps. I have hopes that someone will be inspired by those stumps, make some fantastic piece of art with them, and we can sell them for great gobs of money. I hint, but this is not a project anyone has taken on. So they sit in the driveway. M. is home for the summer and with her comes big projects. She is once again creating large-scale dinosaur puppets for a local theater's production of Jurassic Park. This is mostly confined to her room, but it does spill over a bit in that whatever M. is making is exactly what TM wants to be making. (He admires her greatly and bases a lot of his own projects on hers.) I have set aside a large piece of cardboard for one of my own projects and he is starting to badger for it... because he really needs to make a dinosaur with it. I've cut a deal that he can have whatever I have left over. I better get on with it soon, or I may lose the cardboard battle.
Yesterday found me vacuuming up huge piles of sand from the front hall. Several children yesterday morning were suddenly overcome with the need to fly kites. This involved rummaging through the house searching for various kites and then taking them down to the beach to fly them. A terrific activity until later in the day I realized that when the kites came home, so did half the beach.
Add to that the usual prolific drawings created by L., Legos, the piles of cars that K. leaves everywhere, more Legos, piles of books, science experiments in varying states of completion including a tooth in vinegar sitting on my windowsill, still more Legos, much dirt (or mud) tracked into the house because the bare spots where the grass has stopped growing is really terrific for driving all those cars in, boxes of games that were never returned to the cupboard, pieces of pretend games that K. has made so that he can play games like the big people do, large sticks that have been turned into slingshots and bows and arrows with varying rates of success, but which can all stand in for swords in a pinch despite the fact that I have stated that all sticks must live outside, A.'s weather alarm which goes off every time the weather changes, yet more Legos, dirty baking things strewn around the kitchen from impromptu cookie making sessions. And that's just the past several days.
I realize it probably sounds like most families homes. At least I hope it does and that we're not just an aberration. Yet I will admit that sometimes I wish everyone would sit quietly and not get anything out once in a while. I mentioned this to J. last night and then said that if I plunked them down in front of the TV all the time they couldn't make a mess. He replied that the mess would be in their heads and would be a lot more difficult to sweep out. He's right. I just have to focus on the happy and busy and try to pretend we're a family in one of the fictional stories that I love so much.
And if we're a fictional family that means I get the mess fairy, right?
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