As I pulled away from school after dropping off my six-year-old grandson, I gave thanks to God that I am sill healthy and energetic enough to do this babysitting of five grandsons. My son-in-law’s mother was to have kid duty this time, but she’s having back surgery; it fell to me to do the keeping. And I am grateful. As I’m in the middle of this child-centered house, I’m remembering and reflecting while I enjoy these boys. And I do enjoy them. They are delightful.

When I was raising my kids, our house was a mess most of the time. I thought if I trained my six well enough, they would obey quickly when it was clean up time. But I underestimated their inherent sin nature, so it was usually a battle; I felt like a failure. I suffered often under self-imposed guilt that I was not a good mother, that someone else might see what chaos we lived in regularly and think negatively of me.

My daughter does not. She is truly a saint. She doesn’t really enjoy the mess they make, but she doesn’t stress over it either, not allowing the normal chaos of children to reflect on who she is. And I’m in awe of her ease with it all.

So today as I write this, the four who are home one because he was throwing up all day yesterday so he couldn’t go to school today are all building a multi-room fort in the living room. The oldest hauled in card tables from the garage and blankets from upstairs. They now have a child-sized mansion for all kinds of pretending.

Two of these boys have a creative side that is constantly being expressed on paper. This morning two of them made lots of paper snowflakes which are now taped to the windows. The floor is covered with all the little snippets of leftover cutouts. Last night another one created paper ornaments with tons of Scotch tape. His paper scraps are all over the kitchen. I’m not cleaning until the end. It’s pointless.

The state of my daughter’s house, which she would agree is usually a disaster, is not a reflection on her as much as it is a reflection on her kids. They are not berated for being kids. They play all over the house and not just in one room. That’s not to say that a parent who controls where his or her kids play is wrong — just that it’s refreshing for me to watch this mother, my daughter, be so relaxed with her kids. She really enjoys them, and I did not do that enough.

So while I am here, we will be baking Christmas cookies, sprinkling sugars all over them, and not worrying about the floors. We’ll be reading lots of books and stories. And when Papa arrives after work, there will be more adventures, games, and rough stuff that thrill the boys. My daughter will feel loved that we have delighted in her children, and she will not care that the floor is a mess.

We will enjoy these gifts from God and relish their youth and innocence while it lasts, knowing one day my daughter’s house will be clean again, uncluttered by bits of paper, tons of toys, and apple juice stickys everywhere.