Monday, 4 October 2010

Our just desserts

They say that we get the children we deserve. Is that so? Well what I want to know is what did I do to deserve the hoard of mess making monkeys who have descended into my calm and orderly life over the last seven years?

I grew up in a house where tidying was scorned as somehow demeaning, with the end result that our house was usually extremely messy, if not to say dirty. There was the year when we had no sink, so the washing up mouldered in the bath waiting for someone to lower themselves to actually, you know, do it.

There was the ecosystem that lurked at the back of the kitchen cupboards, which once spawned a whole generation of baby mice. There was the teetering alpine landscape of papers and documents that was forever on the brink of a devastating avalanche.

There was the  DIY that just never got done; from the complex - wires dangling from the ceiling with light switches attached - to the aestetic - wallpaper that hung from the walls in desolate strips, revealing patches of the last owner's taste in interior decor. I think you get the picture. My parents were not house proud.

I however was a changeling, a cuckoo in this supremely untidy nest. I would close the door on the house of horrors and retreat to the neat as a pin sanctuary of my bedroom. I must have been the only teenager who voluntarily did my own hoovering, dusting and washing, all in an attempt to create a little oasis of tidiness amidst this desert of detritus.

I haven't changed. I still tidy up everything I used to make my lunch with before I take a bite, I still find myself getting a little bit twitchy when a pile of magazines is askew or the sofa cushions aren't lined up correctly. I will admit to drafting in help to keep these OCD tendancies at bay. I have a super tidy nanny and a cleaner twice a week, so while I tap away on the keyboard I know my house isn't gradually disappearing under a morass of mess.

But I am under siege from my own children. Or as they shall hitherto be known, the hoard of mess making monkeys. From the moment we began to amass baby stuff during my first pregnancy the clean lines of my home have become increasingly blurred by the ever growing heap of plastic crap that pursues children wherever they go. From the change mats, mobiles and bottles of babyhood to the Lego bricks that find their way into every nook and cranny and dismembered action figures of today, I am fighting a losing battle.

My children seem to be ruled by some primeaval instinct to spread toys around their territory. No matter how often I scream (or cajole or bribe) at them to put things away, they just don't seem to be physically capable of tidying effectively.

Though be fair the oldest has shown some signs that we may be related. When he was a toddler he would hold out his dirty hands out to me and cry 'Mucky, mucky', until I wiped them clean. His favourite activity was to then take the wipes and wipe all over the floor with them, thus revealing that I am not as good a housewife as I might like, as they always came up black with grime.

When I once took him to messy play at the local arts centre the poor child almost had a nervous breakdown. He looked at the paint streaked over his clothes and went into a tearful overdrive of 'Mucky, mucky', until I took him off to the toilets, stripped and washed him down. The teacher took me aside and said I should probably help him to learn to cope with mess a little better. I huffed in disgust as I pulled him out of the class, wiping furiously at the last remnants of paint stuck in his golden toddler curls. We didn't go back.

When he went to school he invariably came home with stickers for being good at tidy up time, which always made me laugh as despite his neater nature any mention of a similar routine at home was met with wailing protests and a grinding of play dough into the carpet.

But the other three deserve Phds in mess making. They can turn a beautifully tidy room into a sea of plastic toys, leaky cups, discarded raisins, smears of felt tip and ripped books in seconds. And their attempts at tidying up are from the classic male school of helping out. So utterly incompetent that you are compelled to snatch the toys from their dawdling hands and do it yourself.

In fact some attempts to tidy up from son number two are more likely to create mess rather than clear it away. Like when he decides to clean the windows with moisturised baby wipes, leaving smears of oily cream all over them, or when he insists on carrying plates to the dishwasher, slopping their contents onto a freshly mopped floor as he goes.

I dream of the days when I can tidy a room and expect to return to it sometime later and find it in the same pristine state. Now I feel as if my life is one long round of straightening up rooms, for as I am busily tidying up in one, my hoard of mess making monkeys is unleashed next door with predictable consequences.

So do I deserve these mess making monkeys? Perhaps it is payback for my priggish youth, when I am sure my tidiness served as a silent reproach for my parents' slovenliness. Or perhaps it is just because some greater power decided that I needed to be kept busy. Who knows? But justice will be served if their own children inherit their unmatched skills for untidiness and their wives are clever enough to leave the mess for them to tidy up.


  1. Mine are just as bad. In fact, I just posted about mothers of boys - yours is one of the posts that strikes a chord with me......

  2. I'm pretty messy but find that I can't cope with the mess created by my children. I now wonder they are my mothers revenge on me, as I start to tidy for the first time in my life!

  3. NVG - loved your post today.

    PWN - child mess is just so hard to contain!