How to measure?
Chairs are out of place in the family room, gathered in the loose circle we pulled them to for Family Night.
Backpacks, binders, cleats, shin guards, books, baby toys and miscellaneous items of clothing lie strewn around the main floor.
Upstairs a Littlest Pet Shop village has overtaken the landing outside the bedroom doors. The toy room is getting awfully messy again.
Clothing decorates bedroom carpet and damp towels hang in odd places around the rooms, cast thoughtlessly aside in the rush for fresh smelling pajamas.
Minutes ago I said goodnight to the last child awake as he finished his homework and headed to bed. That’s 17 straight hours of parenting without a break.
I look around at the mess I call my home.
I look down at myself and see clothes that have been slimed by a runny nose at least 150 times, pants dirty from little hands out in the yard, an outfit splattered with remnants of today’s menus, placed expertly by tiny hands and faces.
It can be discouraging to sit, late in the evening with the exhaustion of the day creeping into my muscles and stinging my eyes, and survey the damage of just one day.
I realize I’m faced with a choice, a choice I must make before the day ends.
How to measure?
I did many things today; things that no one could see at a glance around the house because the ONE thing I didn’t do is so painfully obvious.
I feel tempted to stay up late and clean. Tempted to throw in the towel and go to bed. Tempted to feel discouraged that the price of a busy day could be so high in terms of physical surroundings. And so I ponder, how to measure?
Yesterday I listened to Boyd K. Packer say that we must try not to be too impressed with the scoreboard, that the most important things in our families cannot be counted.
How does today’s scoreboard add up?
I start with my clothes. Every smear of food is evidence of my efforts to feed the growing bodies of little ones, evidence of my baby’s attachment to me, evidence that I am where she runs to no matter what she needs. The slime from her runny nose is evidence of how much I held her, how many times I tried to comfort her as she dealt with an incoming tooth, evidence of the countless hugs we shared as she wrapped her tiny arms tightly around my neck while resting her head on my shoulder. And I smile as I think of the way my heart clenched with joy as I squeezed her back. Every. Single. Time.
I look around the house. The backpacks and binders are evidence of time spent focusing on each student individually, reviewing homework and helping as needed. The shin guards and cleats are the reminder of the last minute soccer and lacrosse practices added to the afternoon schedule. Dirty socks with dark streaks on them speak of time spent as a family in the yard, placing flags where sprinkler heads will soon live.
Damp towels testify to baths and showers, and clean bodies snuggled in beds. Toys on the floor hold the echo of imaginations hard at work.
The circle of chairs remind me that, in spite of being tired, in spite of a couple of arguing kids, we were obedient. We held Family Home Evening. We sang together, talked together, prayed together. Outside we worked together. And the dirty kitchen testifies that we ate together.
I look again at the mess, pondering a different kind of scoreboard, a different measuring stick. That’s a lot of togetherness: working, eating, singing, talking, praying.
I can view this mess as two different kinds of evidence: evidence of all the cleaning I didn’t do, or evidence of all the nurturing I did. I think of the late evening bath I drew for my baby, of how she sat in fascination as we both let water run through our fingers. The scent of my favorite baby lotion still lingers on my clothes after our final tight hug before she went to bed.
I’ve made my choice. I’ll take the mess.
This is life being lived.
The evidence is in my favor.
In spite of my better judgment, I only clear the dinner dishes and place them in the sink, doing just enough cleaning to allow for a smooth breakfast and sack lunch assembly in the morning. I know all the rules about cleaning before bed, but my own runny nose, burning eyes and stuffy head remind me that a happy, healthy mom is better than a clean kitchen any day. I think of the new book in my room that is calling to my heart and decide to rest while I can.
I am grateful that not every day presents nurturing and cleanliness as mutually exclusive, and equally grateful for how today’s score adds up. I call today a success.
I’m also calling it over.