season of order

I couldn’t live somewhere, say parts of California, where there is one seemingly endless season.  Oh, I’ve heard it said that there is more to it: it rains more, I guess at some times, and the temperature may sway ten degrees in either direction.  No, I want real seasons – something to punctuate the calendar, the changing of the guards.  I get antsy, bored with the sameness, and even this girl can’t take too many sunny days — I need a little rain cloud every once in a while.

There is much I like about the shifting air that tells me we are in a new season.  I  don’t mind the straddle –  the mix between the two seasons, that ambiguous space where mother nature is trying to sort herself out.  But, I will tell you with such groaning, there is one thing that I detest:  the requisite clothing swap.  Oh, how this is almost  my undoing, every time! Boxes filled to the brim, stuffed with such an odd assortment of clothes.  Oh, I know there are some of you out there who may not understand.  Those of you who only have well organized, clearly labeled boxes lining shelves in your clean basement in descending size and arranged by season.  Well, you are not allowed in my basement.  But the truth is the boxes are not just in my basement.  No, our stash is buried all over our house. There is one or two in my closet, and a handful in the eaves behind the kids’ room.

I know with all my being that if I could just get a handle on all of these clothes – that if I could only shake all the noise out of my head for a minute and at least pretend that I am a type ‘A’ organizational junky, that it would really be for the benefit of my sanity.  I understand that if I could just put in the time now it will pay off later.  But.  Let’s be honest, folks – that’s just not how I operate.  I wish I could, sometimes.  In our clothing boxes you will find girl clothes hanging out with the boy clothes.  You will  find fleece sleeper pajamas next to bathing suits.  There was a whole rash of 12 month onesies folded next to a stack of 2T pants.  It’s sort of like playing a game show – what will behind door number three?

I have resigned myself to the fact that generally, I stink at a lot of household management.  I am not good at meal planning.  I love to cook, truly, and I’ve become a pro even at grocery shopping with three little ones, but I can’t succeed at planning out a week or two of meals.  There is no method to the way I clean, or don’t clean, my house.  When I bend down to pick up a dropped fork from the table in the kitchen and I can see the dirt, I know that it is time to do something about it.  There is a basket on the landing that is supposed to contain recent shoes that have been taken off, a forced moment of pause on the way to the next activity, but even I can be the worst offender of misfit shoes.   I could tell you something about how having three small children underfoot certainly puts a kink into any sort of organization, and it’s true, that is part of the challenge.  But I have other mama friends who, because of their little people, find it more important to maintain order.  This is not me.  Sometimes, I wish it was.

No, it’s not because of the little ones.  While I welcome their “help” at any given task, with resultant clothing box surprises, I take full responsibility for my lack of organization.  Even as I type this, I fail to find a better word for organization, because that’s almost not it.  I can be systematic about things, I can get tasks accomplished.  I’m not so disabled as to be useless in this manner.  But my brain does not go that way on its own.  I’m all loops and spirals; not so much straight lines and boxes.  And I find that when I have to mold my thinking into something other than it’s own natural bent it takes more time and effort.  This is precisely why my boxes aren’t labeled right.  I would rather make sure that I’ve paid the bills on time, and that my calendar is fresh on my mind.  I know how to create my own way through most traditional challenges.  I have succeeded in my fair share of schooling with all the due dates and diligent work that goes with it — and I did it in my own way. But I bristle against the structure that seems required to turn the gears, keeping things running smoothly in the modern household.

Something about modern motherhood sometimes makes me feel like I’m supposed to be the equivalent of the office manager of my home.  I’ve gotten used to being the go-to when there is an errant piggy or turtle friend to be found.  I’m your gal for most of the run-of-the-mill questions that come up in family life.  Has the dog been fed?  Is the dishwasher clean or dirty?  I’ve gotten used to holding all this knowledge and parsing it out in sound bites.  But I can’t get my head wrapped around much else of this manager lifestyle.

Here’s what I know: I may not be good at remembering to bring a library book back on time, but I sure am good about reading it to the kids.  I may not be good at telling you what we’re going to have for supper on Thursday, but I nourish my family well.  I may not have the tidiest house, or the cleanest, but it is because I spent my morning building forts with the kids, and pushing kids on swings, and letting them help make cookies.  I may be a little mixed up by our clothing bins, but my kids are never without a jacket in the winter, not without a swimming suit come summer.  It can take me a bit longer, but the seasons get sorted out eventually.

No, I may not be very good at the managerial side of modern mothering, but I’m okay with that.  I find freedom in figuring out how to make things work in our home, and am engaged with the challenge do so creatively, within a framework of which I can make sense, full of loops and spirals.  From the outside, it may look as though I have it all wrong, and can’t keep things straight – maybe even that I’m failing at how we’ve been told we are supposed to run a home. But I know that on the inside, here in our home, it is full of love in all the right places.  And that is never out of season.

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