I hopped in my car yesterday to run to the grocery store, and I about gagged. The smell. Oh, the smell. You are all well acquainted with how much I loathe the bathroom that my three boys share, so for a smell to gross me out, it has to be bad.
Without even looking back, I knew. I knew exactly where the stench was coming from.
The third row.
Minivan and SUV moms, you know what I am talking about.
When having kids, people warn you about the lack of sleep, how much potty training sucks, how the first day of Kindergarten will be hard.
But no one dare speaks of the third row of a mom’s car.
Because it is where all sanitary practices go to die. And every health code is violated. Bacteria abounds. And I secretly wonder if I have a 5th kid that I don’t know about because he’s buried beneath piles of ripped up magazines, empty Doritos bags, and smashed juice boxes.
It’s very possible.
When arriving home after an event, I always tell my kids to clean out the car. And like the other 1,439 minutes of the day, they pretend like they don’t hear me.
Apparently childhood is too demanding to be expected to wear your shoes all the way out of the car (it’s just SO far). Because when I decided to rid my car of the disgusting smell (by venturing into the deep unknown of the third row), I found…count them…12 pairs of shoes. As in 24 total shoes. As in each child averaged three pairs of shoes IN THE CAR.
No wonder my car smelled so gaggy.
My parents always taught me that college would prepare me for real life, but I severely underestimated the important role frat houses would play in future life lessons.
Because if there is one metaphor that works across the board for what raising children is like, a frat house is it.
A house full of boys with a cute girl thrown in the mix, occasional vomiting, an empty fridge, lots of noise, complaining about school, and the consistent faint smell of urine.
See, you aren’t sure if I am talking about Lambda Chi or my house.
If you could have seen my house last night, it made Lambda Chi look like Buckingham Palace. The unspeakable third row of my car apparently decided to vomit itself up on my entire house.
Because, oh my, the mess. The mess would not have been so discouraging if it had been a few weeks since I had last made an effort. But I had literally cleaned for hours the day before.
I do not understand my children’s ability to make a mess, but judging by the response of my Facebook post lamenting this reality…I am definitely not alone. (Politely ignore my husband’s misogynistic memes on that thread.)
My kids aren’t total savages. Every single day, I make them clean up our living room and homeschool room. But every single day, they destroy them again. And every single day, they complain about having to clean them up.
It’s a very confusing cycle I have to figure out how to embrace before I buy a one-way ticket to crazy town (population: the 46 year old man-child that still parties at his old frat house. You know the one.)
I am not usually one to talk about a problem without an idea for how to solve it, but unless I literally clean my house all day every day, I have to accept that part of raising kids is the fact that they are messy. They always have been; they always will be. And no amount of storage solutions will change that. Much to my dismay.
If I take this analogy way too far (and omit the laundry list of debauchery), a frat house is where its at. It’s a constant party and lots of fun. People are always laughing and enjoying life.
Isn’t that what we want for our kids??
As much as I crave an orderly, Restoration Hardware-esque house, when my kids are grown and reminisce about their childhoods, it would be a shame if all they had to say was, “Mom was stressed out and cleaning all of the time.” That is not a life well spent.
Instead, I hope they have such hilarious memories that they laugh until they cry. I hope they stay up late into the night remembering all of the fun we had together. I hope they love coming home because it feels safe and warm. I hope that they bring my grandkids over as much as possible, knowing that I won’t flip out if they break a thing or two.
And when they go back to their respective homes, I hope they step on a Lego. As payback for never cleaning them up.
I kid. (Sort of.)
The paradox of it all is that real life is always found in the messy parts. Marriages are solidified in the hard times. Boundaries and rules make children feel loved. Families find out what they’re made of when life throws a curveball.
I can’t say I won’t have the occasional freak out when my house falls apart and black mold starts growing in the third row of my car. But I can say that if a messy house is a sign of a good life, then my life is the best there is.
And it doesn’t get much better than that.