Last Updated on February 28, 2024

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.

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  1. Barbara Rainey says:

    I’m so glad you are encouraged. It is hard to remember the big picture in the midst of the crazies of everyday life with little ones. this morning we have organized a clean-up brigade to try and bring some order back to the disorder. So for a few minutes 2 of the boys are actually picking although one has come in to tattle on the other twice since i’ve been typing this! But some day they will be grown and gone and your house will stay as you want it. And you will love it and miss your little ones at the same time.
    Hang in there!

  2. Hello Barbara,
    Reading this entry brings such encouragement to my heart. I have two young boys: almost 5 and 2 years old. Our house is always cluttered with toys and books. At times, I have stop inviting people to our home 'coz I'm afraid of what they may say about me. It's good for me to remember to relish these precious moments with my boys. Thanks, Chris/Orange County/CA

  3. I struggle with this a lot also. I have a very very active demanding one year old. She is constantly undoing any house work I try to accomplish.
    One of my main problems is that a messy house stresses me out so I am often discontent and cranky feeling when the house is a disaster. I struggle to find balance between having a semi picked up house and being constantly stressed by how much time I put into trying to keep the house semi cleaned up.
    Thanks for this reminder to keep my priorities of pleasing others and not myself always. Motherhood is boot camp for getting rid of selfishness!!
    It doesn't help that a lot of my friends with kids seem to keep immaculate houses by default.

  4. Barbara Rainey says:

    You are so right that motherhood is boot camp for ridding us of selfishness and lots of other faults too! Also remember that what appears to be immaculate in another's house may not be so. you either just 'happen' to catch theirs clean or they have cleaning help daily or they only allow their kids to play in one room. the playing field is never level.
    right now these five boys we are keeping have hauled in all the plastic trikes from the garage and are driving them in circles around the house. it's terribly loud. but they are safe and having a great time. so it's all good for now!

  5. How fun that we all get to be a part of “a day in the life of Barbara” … and comforting to know yours can be as crazy as ours! I just grumbled as I walked past my sons trap practice “junk” laying on our table, his shoes in the middle of the floor and his breakfast plate still sitting on the counter in the kitchen – because he was on his way out the door to basketball! But you are right, a few years from now all that clutter will be gone…and I’ll miss it! Instant attitude check! Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a great post and an encouragement to moms living in the mess. I learned this the hard way having 8 kids…LOL Knowing with the first I cared too much about the house and seeing how quick they grow has allowed me to let the younger ones be kids longer. I am not completely there, I have my moments. Trying to remember what is more important…a clean house or kids full of life and following God! Thanks for sharing a post that takes the stress off this mom again!

  7. This is such a great reminder about the things that are really important. It is so easy for me to look at the mess and forget to just enjoy my kids!