Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Best intentions

For a while there--a long while--I felt like I never finished anything I started. My biggest testament to this fact doesn't exist anymore. It was the outside cinderblock wall of the basement apartment my sister and I shared for a year or so after college. I decided it needed painting, so I went out and bought a gallon of brick-red paint, with every intention of improving the looks of the place. Instead, I got about halfway through and decided the weather was too hot for me to finish and that the improvement wouldn't be drastic enough, so why bother. After my sister and I moved out, the building sat there, mocking me, until it was bulldozed over to make room for a highway that was never even started, let alone finished. The ending seemed appropriate.

Ron and I have had our share of arguments during our 15 years of marriage, probably no more than most couples and likely a lot fewer than some. And a good share of those arguments have been over what I consider "done" versus what he considers "done." Our first real fight, as a matter of fact, was over a bookshelf I sanded for him to stain. I thought it was smooth enough and he didn't. He wasn't angry; he just couldn't believe I really thought I was done. I've since told him that he's a perfectionist, which is why he married me, and that I'm not, which is why I married him. (kidding, honey!)

My house is a testament to my willingness to let go, to not obsess over the details. Plastic flower decorations from Emma's party several weeks ago still adorn my kitchen windows. I have three overflowing baskets of laundry in the family room that I'll get to before I got to bed tonight. My refrigerator has out-of-date appointment cards on the outside and out-of-date produce in at least one of the drawers on the inside. An anti-clutter freak would begin hyperventilating just five minutes after entering my house. But it's home. It's at least as cluttered as my mind and therefore I feel it belongs to me.

Like my kids. A friend sent me a link to a "quiz" about her that her young son had taken. I tried some of the questions on my kids. Most of their answers varied quite a bit from each other, but the one all of them answered the same (although they didn't know each other's answers) was this: "What is something your mom says to you all the time?" I was hoping for, "I love you" as the answer. But I got, "Pick up your room," "Put your clothes away," Clean up your mess."

See, I try for perfection, and obviously more often than I realize. I intend for things to be just right, but sometimes they're better just as they are. Simon doesn't want to play the recorder ever again because after a year of being required to play it for his school's music class, he still doesn't "get" it so he said he gives up. Owen bites his nails and hasn't yet figured out how to take his dirty clothes from his bedroom to the laundry chute in the hall. Emma wore an oversized orange t-shirt, striped shorts, white socks, and pink sandals to school today. Ivan can't stand cleaning up his toys or markers or crayons by himself so flatly refuses to until someone at least sits with him while he does it. And I love every single rough spot I see on all of them.

I'll raise them all the way. I'll do my darnedest to make sure everyone of them makes it out of the house one day whole and prepared and happy. Still, I imagine they'll find or recall a few half-painted walls I should have finished for them first. I can only hope they will know I always had the best intentions, even if my execution of those intentions wasn't always perfectly smooth.


Ron said...

If Bobbie did more cleaning we wouldn't have these wonderful blog posts to enjoy, now would we? So all you who enjoy her posts really have me to thank for being such a tolerant-of-clutter husband, despite my natural inclinations.

I think my kids would say they often hear me say, "Did you wash your hands?" I suppose it could be worse.

Brooke said...

Just for the record, the times I visited your house in Pittsburgh, it always seemed rather clean and beautiful to me. Maybe I've developed mental blinders for what you consider "clutter". :-)

Shankar said...

Well, they do say that the devil is in the details...and who wants him around?

Bobbie said...

Hadn't heard that spin on the saying, Shankar. I like it. And, Brooke, I'm good at hiding clutter from guests. But thank you. Anytime you're in or near Chicago, you're more than welcome to drop by.

Jennifer said...

I sit in my living room with walls primed red, not painted, as they have been for five years.