Last night we arrived home from a week away to a beautifully clean house—made beds, cleared counters, and sparkling toilets. Not because we left it that way, mind you, but because I’m spoiled (yes, I know I’m spoiled) enough to have a cleaning service come a couple times a month, and they happened to come while we were on vacation.
As I walked in the door, I took a great big breath of dust-bunny-free air and smiled. Ah, home sweet home. Somehow even the laundry (quite literally) piling up in the garage seemed more manageable. Because…well, clean.
I’m one of those people. You know, the crazy people who really, really crave a clean space? The people who actually function more efficiently when there isn’t paperwork piled up and Cheerios crushed all over the floor?
Don’t mistake that statement to mean that my house is always clean. Oh no, quite the opposite, I’m afraid. While I’d love to blame the kids, Lenny would be the first to point out that a lot of the messes are mine. (He’s even more clean crazed than I am. I know.) But once every couple weeks, I have a renewed hope that this clean will carry me farther, lift me higher, last a bit longer…just this once.
Today my hope was dashed. The kids were playing so beautifully together while I folded laundry, showered, and did all those post-vacation kinds of things, that I didn’t want to ruin a good thing. I liked everything I was hearing, so I let them play.
Until Pink called me into her room. “Mommy, can you put me in my crib? I’m playing family with Little. And we’re going to go swimming.”
The two of them had tracked down every stuffed animal, doll, and pillow in their two rooms and filled the crib to the brim to create a pool. Why? Why?!
I took a deep dust-mite-filled breath and asked nobody in particular again. Why?!
Then it hit me. The answer was really quite simple. Because they could. Because we finally had a quiet moment around the house for them to get creative and play well together—and they were totally nailing it. They were happy, proud, and independent.
Over the course of a couple hours, they’d come up with all kinds of cool ideas. Entirely without me. Big invented a game where he was raffling off his prized possessions to his little brother and sister to borrow for a day (his “World Series” baseball cap, his favorite stuffed animal, his UCLA football helmet). He even raffled off Rainbow Loom classes, and dusted off his kit to help them make bracelets for their friends. They all worked on building their own cities with Magnatiles, Legos, and Squinkies. And then, well, there was that game of family.
Not once did someone ask for a snack—wannabe chef, Big, had already made them all a delicious toast breakfast. Not once did someone ask me if they could turn on the TV or play a LeapFrog game. Not once did I have to break up a fight. This was sibling summer magic at its finest.
I looked at this sweet little crib filled with junk, and realized it was also overflowing with happy. Because, the truth of the matter is that the happy happens in the messing up, in the creative thinking, in the bonding moments.
So today, as I continue to wash, dry, fold, and re-clean what was clean just hours ago, I’ll do my best to remember that sparkling smiles and shiny eyes are what truly make this place lovely. Because while I do love a clean house, I wouldn’t ever trade it for a happy home.
(But if you’ve figured out a way to have both, you’re hired.)