Sweet home of perfection

March 24, 2017


Other than a lap full of puppies and dirty feet, my favorite thing to play was, "house." An incomplete set of chipped Wedgewood dishes, an old orange rug, one small table and two little chairs were in the playhouse I loved. The house was absolutely perfect as far as I was concerned, and I knew one day, if I worked very hard and lived a good life, I'd have my own grown-up version of domestic tranquility.

Something like this was my plan.

The playhouse was my fortress of solitude, shielding me from my little brother and his annoying friends who would zoom their hot-wheels all over the place and chase each other with sticks.

I would retreat to the quietness of my own place and relax in my miniature chair and read books, work on my sticker collection, or play with paper dolls while "dinner" cooked on the pretend stove. Sometimes, I'd make real jelly sandwiches cut into little triangles, and serve them on the flower rimmed china. After the feast, I'd become the scullery maid and wash the dishes to shiny perfection in the little sink Daddy made from a small ice chest that fit snuggly down into a wooden countertop.

Every now and then, I'd invite other little girls to come visit, but they always wanted to pretend it was their house too, and tried to rearrange things. One friend wanted to hang streamers from the rafters, but I had none of that. This wasn't a wild party house, it was supposed to look elegant, like the beautiful rooms in my mother's magazines. Loud boys were never allowed to intrude on my domestic oasis. The most well behaved guests were my two dachshunds, who loved strawberry jelly sandwiches and cleaned their own plates.

I totally understood what Peanut's character Lucy Van Pelt meant, when she was asked what she wanted for Christmas and replied, "real estate." Having a neat and tidy place of my own was always my dream, but soon after my husband and I moved into our first house, noisy children came along, who in the blink of an eye, grew into noisier and messier teens.

The boys were genetically incapable of hanging up towels or putting dishes in the dishwasher, which of course, I attributed to my husband's DNA, and even though I swept the floor twice a day, the family room still looked like a sandbox.

But dreams really do come true, and I recently realized that having my grown-up-perfect-house may be in my near future. With one son in college, and another just a year away from leaving, an organized non-chaotic home will finally be mine. No more boys shouting and chasing each other around the living room, banging on the piano or shaking the walls with a loud guitar amplifier. No more dirty dishes mysteriously appearing in the kitchen overnight or science projects-gone-bad, leaving burn marks on the rugs.

So with sweet order and peace finally on the way . . . why do I dread it so much?

Actually, the noise wasn't so bad, because most of it was laughter or music, and what's wrong with that? And in reality, it wasn't that hard to cook for a crowd of teens when they showed up hungry and it really took no time at all to scoot the furniture back into place and vacuum up a few crumbs here and there, did it?

In one more year, my house will finally be perfect, and now that I'll have what I've always wanted, I think it's absolutely — terrible. Sure there's a husband around, but he's fairly well trained at this point. The hustle and bustle of children and teenagers will be gone, and I'll be left alone with jelly sandwiches for myself and maybe a few for the dog.

I'll finally have the grown-up version of my childhood playhouse, and I don't think I'll like it so much this time around. What kind of tricky life-lesson is this anyway and how did I ever fall for it? Home sweet home, indeed.

  • I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before but one of the great surprises about being a parent is that we work so hard to teach our children to become independent then dang if they don’t go off and become all independent leaving us with tidy and way too quiet homes.

  • I think we all continue to play house when we’re grown and with a house of our own. And I guess we’re really fortunate to be able to when some of the world isn’t able to. Empty nest phase is such a mixture of sadness with enjoyment but it does take some adjusting to. I’m one of those women who sees a young family at church or out shopping and when I see some impatience of parents towards a little misbehavior I want to tap them on the shoulder and say, Please, enjoy them while they’re young because they grow up so quickly. But I don’t do that because that would really be a crazy old woman, wouldn’t it?

    • You are so right, and even though I’ve always focused on having everything tidy, I did remember everyone telling me to enjoy them while they were little. We had so much fun playing and doing little-boy kinds of things, that I’m not so sad they are older now. I just wish they’d stay around a while.

  • Home sweet “perfect’ Home….I know the sense of dread you feel, but trust me as I am on the other side of grown and flown sons, I am finding that while I miss the laughter, chaos, and busy-ness of a young family, I stand in awe of the men they have become and their happiness…also, it is pretty nice when I leave an empty kitchen sink in the morning and the sink is still empty when I come home…no more yelling up the steps, “You realize you had to pass the dishwasher to put the glass, plate, spoon, half-full cereal bowl, spatula, etc…in the sink.”

    My home is still not magazine perfect, but I am happy as well.

    • Ha! So mine aren’t the only ones who can never find the dishwasher! I totally agree with you that if you know your children are happy and well-adjusted, it makes transitions much easier. And knowing their dorm rooms and apartments have dirty dishes in the sink while mine is clean is going to be fun!

  • Ha, don’t worry, pretty soon there will be babies about!

  • Leslie Anne, Imalways wanted a play house. But now, that we have a granddaughter, maybe I can! We cried so much when we our son left for college and even more when he married. But it is the natural order and when you think of the alternative (they live with you forever), it really is ok!

  • Welcome soon to “empty nest syndrome !” Yes, it all sounds familiar and what a shock when you miss all of the above. But, there will be other joys to come, weddings and hmmm, sit down, grands. You’ll get use to the idea and it will be fine. Children grow up way to fast!

    • I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it!!!!!!!

  • Aw, Leslie, it won’t be as bad as you think, nor will it be as clean and neat as you think! My late husband and I found our empty nest to be wonderful. We cherished the quiet and the uninterrupted time together. We welcomed our girls home when they came to visit, for sure, and there might have been some tears when they would head back to their own places or to school, but it was all good.

    I’ve lived alone since my husband’s death six years ago, and there’s really only one day every two weeks when my house looks as clean. neat and perfect as I like-the day the cleaning ladies come! I think the messiness we had when the kids were growing up at home came from me!

    When your younger son heads off to college you might feel like you’ve been laid off from a job you’ve loved for 20 some odd years. A job you’ve poured your heart into. You may flounder a bit until the Lord shows you where He wants you to use all you’ve learned as a Mom in new experiences. But you will find those things. And if you are like most of my friends who have found themselves with an empty nest, you will still find that there will be plenty of mothering opportunities with your boys and times when your house is full of noise and messes!

    And I am totally jealous of your playhouse!

    • You make it all sound wonderful, and come to think of it, my friends who have empty nests do have a lot of fun and freedom! Thanks for the pep talk!

  • A tricky lesson it is. It isn’t nearly as much fun without my people here, and the house is still not as perfectly clean and orderly as I though it would be. Better, but not like I dreamed it would be. Great article.

    • Thanks Sandy. I have a year to get ready for it, and I have a feeling it will take the entire time!

  • How lucky you were to have a playhouse. That was something I always wished for. BTW, don’t be surprised if your house isn’t always perfect even without children.

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