Busy in Bristow: The Day Your Home Becomes a Magical Kid-dom

| April 14, 2013 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

Years ago, when visiting friends of ours, the first thing we saw upon entering their beautiful, new house was a massive play room where the designer had intended a formal dining room. We didn’t have kids yet, and I remember my husband and I vowed that we’d never let Kid-dom creep in and eat away at every adult space in our home.

Eight years later, I am embarrassed when someone comes by our place without prior notice, and I’m petrified to let even the pest services woman come in the house, because it isn’t until I see my home through someone else’s eyes that I realize how completely we’ve let the kudzu jungle of kid things overgrow what used to be civilized space.

Even when they’re all put away, the play room contains toys for kids ages 5-11 arranged in no particular order, although from time to time, I’ll try to impose some organization on the chaos. Such schemes work for all of one week before anarchy reigns once more.

My husband has put up shelves. I’ve purchased the crate system from Target. We have a stuffed animal net and two giant toy boxes with lids, but we also have a five year old whose goal it is in life is to write or draw on one side of at least every blank sheet of paper in the house and who, in spite of evidence to the contrary, believes that markers last longer when their caps lay scattered on the floor rather than on the markers themselves. We also have a son who loves to build model houses, garages, football fields and BBQ pits with Legos, Lincoln Logs and Kinex and thinks his creations should be left up for a minimum of three days. Add to that our other daughter’s passion for her hula hoop which has no particular spot from which it doesn’t roll out and trip the unsuspecting foot, and our youngest son’s obsession with Ninjago figures, all of which are exactly the size of my pinky finger, cost twenty dollars apiece but barely make the vacuum cleaner burp, and you’ve got a play room in which no one can play because it’s too crowded with things that never get put away until I stand down there with my bullhorn and whip or, when really desperate, bribe the play room users with candy.

If it were just the play room where havoc reigned, I’d be happy. When the kids were younger and there were fewer of them, I somehow managed to keep their clutter from mixing with ours. But now that we’ve let them out of their cages and they move about freely, they are forever carrying some of their crap with them and leaving it in our “adult spaces.” In spite of the fact that there is a perfectly good drawing table downstairs, the kitchen table is always covered with crayons and colored pencils. Even though we have ample bookshelf space, those slippery covers from Scholastic pile up and slip surreptitiously off my coffee table (which by the way has a butt dent in it although I have a strict “no sitting on any furniture other than the couch” rule) onto the floor where the Polly Pocket mini skirts and impossibly small shoes littered the floor like landmines until one day I decided the girls didn’t like them enough to miss them and I threw them all out.

We share our bathroom with the kids because it has the better tub and so every morning I’m accosted by one of their yellow ducklings or a mermaid who’s lost so much hair that one day, I frantically grabbed at my own scalp before I realized the clump in the drain belonged to the doll.

I draw the line at our bedroom, yet Kid-dom still creeps in: the 101 ink sketches that our daughters do on which the words, “I love you Mommy!” appear at the top (what cruelhearted woman would throw them out without keeping them tucked in the corner of her mirror for a time?) or the errant stuffed animal that gets left behind after snuggling or is directly given to me as a token of love (“Dolphin can sleep with you tonight, Mommy. She’ll help you with your sommia.”)

It’s our house. We pay the mortgage and insure it. The last time I checked my husband and I were both over the age of 12 even though sometimes we don’t act it. But anyone who walks in without letting us know at least an hour beforehand does so at his own risk and even those for whom we prepare will no doubt – if they no longer live in Kid-dom or sadly never did – probably think we’re crazy for having a preschool-made weather vane hang in our kitchen where the wine rack used to be and for taping all of our children’s hastily drawn artwork on the door that separates the play room from the rest of our house. In fact, I used to see that door as a boundary line between their part of the house and ours, but now I see I was wrong … it was always more of a portal that transported we adults who braved it into Kid-dom, where little hands hold on, squeezing as tightly as time allows, which, after all, isn’t long.

Like many moms, Kathy drives a mini-van full of booster seats and Disney/Pixar DVD’s. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids, ages 11 and under, to activities, she teaches for Prince William County Public Schools, writes fiction, poetry and this column about the challenges and rewards of being a mom to young children.

© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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