The mess. It starts over breakfast, after the first round of washing has already been mysteriously whipped into the washing machine. Alice enjoys baby cereal off a spoon – but she hasn’t quite got that you hold the spoon by the handle – preferring to get stuck right into the action on the tip of the spoon and have a nice play with all that mushy, sticky, gooey stuff.
A little head-way is made during the morning, with Alice being entertained with random toys as Mummy skits around the house like a white-tornado. Clothes put away. Tea-towels, bibs and cleaning cloths. Towels and bedding. A cloth whipped round the sink and bench-tops. A dirty mirror given a quick polish. A dusty shelf brushed along in haste.
And then the mess makes a come back over lunch, combined with a play-date (Sophie in the middle)…
Alice thinks it is all hilarious. She is absolutely laughing at me in the photograph below. Here she is, second round of eating for the day, deciding yoghurt and banana definitely taste better when smeared behind the ears, over the eyes, up the sleeve… ah well, at least she’s trying hard to feed herself – top marks for trying lass! And she’s doing a pretty grand job at 6 month’s old. Did I mention she has ANOTHER tooth! That’s three munching mashers at 6 months and I can feel a fourth swelling up and getting ready to cut through.
But the mess is so worth it, right? To hear the happy sounds of children laughing. To hear Sophie playing with her friends. Sophie is such a sociable personality and needs to be around people all the time. Charlotte was always happy to entertain herself and enjoyed her own space to create and ‘be’, but Sophie is happier surrounded by people.
So, it is worth it… even if there’s paint smeared clothes to wash and art materials to clean and put away. This lovely activity of painting pebbles ended up with wet clothes scattered around the patio and house. I’d left out a bucket of warm soapy water, for them to wash their hands in, which quickly became a mini-paddling pool. Sophie, yes my darling daughter, was the leader – even climbing in the bucket (she should be in the circus being able to squeeze herself into small objects!). Within moments I had three bubble covered, wet, shivering girls running through the house looking for towels and dry clothes (despite the Spring sunshine there’s still a wintery chill in the air in Wellington).
Sophie said to me the other day, ‘Play with me Mummy’ and I really do try. I don’t want her to look back and just remember me as the house-maid, cook and cleaner. But sometimes, when I sit down to play, my mind is wondering to all the chores I have to do. Other times, I do get totally engrossed in play and can so feel the love – know what I mean?
But I can’t play all the time and that is something my children need to know. I am constantly teaching them to be involved and responsible for their belongings. And when we all pull our weight and work together there is more time for play – yah! A friend recently introduced a ‘responsible jar’ – where the children earn marbles for being responsible and when the jar is full they get to choose a treat or a family activity. Great idea!
So, this week we have introduced ‘responsible jars’. Well, like all these reward systems they seem to get more and more complicated as the children get older and wiser. Truth be told, Charlotte already is exceedingly responsible and does so much without us having to ask. But Sophie needs a little more encouraging. I am going to have to draw up a detailed list of how and when they can ‘win’ marbles. There is already some heavy negotiations going on. This morning, whilst Dan was on the phone to his Mum (organising flights to NZ for his Mum and Dad), and I was in the shower, the girls broke into a screaming row over the marbles. Afterwards we had them sit down and write apologies to Chinese Grandma and Granddad and really hope they haven’t been put off coming out here in January for five weeks!
So, the mess, yes, it starts over breakfast and never really goes away, but ebbs and flows like the tide.
And sometimes the outcome of all the mess can be something rather lovely to look at…
The girls have been churning out the artwork, particularly Sophie at Kindergarten, and this week I’ve been working on turning one wall of the house into an art gallery (turned into two walls… hey ho). There is still a large pile of yet more delightful art, which will be winging its way to four corners of the world and wrapping itself around presents in due course.
Now it’s time for me to be responsible and go and collect Sophie from Kindergarten (got to wake up sleeping Alice though – poor love). And then it’s off to see the nurse for me – as I’ve been very irresponsible and not had a smear test since 2003 (gasp!). The nurse has been on my case and finally cornered me on the phone this week. Do I get a marble?