Updated: Jan 17
This morning, I stepped on not one, not two, but three different LEGO blocks scattered across the living room.
"Death by a thousand cuts" seems like such an unlikely demise until you've spent 20 minutes removing tiny Minecraft swords from your foot.
And don't get me wrong, my boys know they are expected to pick up after themselves. They just have a disorder I refer to as "selective obedience syndrome" or "SOS" shortened.
Despite constant reminding, there's this helpless realization that one of us (me) will inevitably end up in the ER, concussed and multiple teeth missing after falling victim to a minefield of Hot Wheels vehicles at 4am.
It's a pattern as old as the concept of the nuclear family itself:
Purchase toys for spawn
Explain to spawn how toys should be safely, neatly stored
Have violent encounter with toys that were not safely, neatly stored
File a lawsuit against Fisher-Price
Repeat #1-4 until you fail to survive #3
But being maimed by neglected toys, honestly, isn't even what grinds my gears. The thing that gets to me is the vicious cycle; Molly and I clean virtually the same mess over and over and over.
With our alone time notably limited, it goes without saying that we have no desire to squander our evenings retrieving aliens, zoo animals, and other exotica from every crevice of the house.
Even worse, we do this knowing good and darn well that our efforts are futile, knowing our kids' chubby little sausage hands will remain forever incapable of returning toys to their room.
Some evenings, I swear I can hear the mocking laughter of Marie Kondo in her organized tower of lies.
There are two primary things that quickly set me off (or "trigger" me as the youths put it): unexpected physical pain and disrespect from my kids.
An infinite loop of preventable plastic-induced injuries tearing at the fibers of my soul? That checks both boxes.
And for the first time in awhile, it really got to me. I found myself genuinely upset with the boys over yet another clear disregard for instruction.
"Why are these LEGOs still laying around after I TOLD you to put them up?"
"I'm going to give these toys to kids who actually listen!"
"The Paw Patrol would be so disappointed in this mess!" (Too far?)
I even considered making good on a threat my own mom used on us growing up and "throwing away every toy that isn't put up in 5 minutes."
Seriously, why can't the house just stay clean? How amazing would it be if the toys were always put up?
Although...would it be amazing?
What if laughter and the patter of little feet playing pirates didn't echo through the hallways at 7am on a Saturday while we're trying to sleep in?
What if I didn't have to scrub red crayon off the baseboards from the "I LOVE DAD" card my 6-year-old got a little excited about?
What if their bedroom was my dream office with a gaming corner, framed copies of first edition Marvel comics adorning the walls? What if there was no bunkbed stippled with teeth marks or holes in the drywall from dinosaur tails?
What if I never stepped on another LEGO?
In a world of Instagram parenting, it's easy to fall for the surrealism of model-bodied mothers baking cakes on sprawling granite countertops. Smiling children, noses lightly dusted with flour as they lick batter from a spoon.
Or a linebacker-sized father out on the lawn, triceps flexed as he tosses the pigskin to his son, every blade of grass a vibrant green and cut to exactly 1.15 inches as dictated by the HOA.
Give me a break. Give all of us a break.
The daily chaos we face as parents isn't a nuisance or barrier to living a good life. It is the very substance of a good life.
We spend so much time trying to maintain order and control because we've been conditioned to view "messiness" as failure.
The reality? That messiness is a celebration of the freedom and creativity your kids feel in their home, in the safe environment that you created for them.
In case it was unclear, that's a good thing. That's a healthy thing.
Obviously, I'm not advocating for a life of squalor or desensitizing ourselves to the benefits of cleanliness.
But the next time you catch yourself looking across a sea of LEGOs questioning your ability to parent (or your sanity), take a deep breath and picture a quiet, empty home.
It's clean, right? But they're worth it, aren't they?
So worth it.