We had a family dinner last weekend. The kids were all playing so nicely. And so quietly. Yeah, you're right, that should have been my first clue.
They had asked if they could do art projects in the family room, which was fine with me so long as it didn't involve paint or playdoh and they cleaned up the mess afterward. They asked if they could make a "cave" which was also fine. I assumed they were doing something with the couch cushions since those items almost never actually reside on the couch. It turns out that they were taping the art work to the walls to make the room look creepy and cave-like. Also ok as I have been known to tape artwork to the walls myself, particularly in the kitchen to hide all the holes and the stripes of potential paint colors.
But I have to draw the line on using a glue stick to put stuff on the wall. How the heck am I going to get that and its bonded orange construction paper off my pale blue wall? Honestly, if they had done it in the kitchen or the playroom (aka what most people use as a living/dining room) or the hallway I would have laughed and moved on. But they picked the family room. The room that we redid last year after removing the ugly 1960's paneling. The room that looks better than the whole rest of the house put together. The room that looks like grownups live here.
That last statement kept repeating in my head all night long. What does it mean to have a house that looks like kids live there? What does it mean to have a house that looks like grownups live there? Can the two exist in the same house at the same time or will that bend the space-time continuum?
I thought of all the houses I've been in lately. There are the houses where you know the instant you get inside, maybe even before, that kids live there. There are pictures on the refrigerator, little shoes littering the hallway, legos strewn around. There are the houses that look a bit neater but kid-evidence is still around in the form of bigger shoes, game systems and the like. There are the houses where you can guess that teens live because there are still bigger shoes, electronic devices, a chest freezer in an obvious place and lots of cars in the driveway.
Then there are the houses that have me totally stumped. I know kids live there because I've met them, spoken to them, maybe even followed them inside. But there is absolutely no evidence of them anywhere. It's like entering an alternate house universe. A house black hole. And the whole time I'm there I'm discreetly searching for the evidence. I'm looking for a fingerprint on the light switch. A cheerio under the couch cushion. A stray sock peeking out from somewhere. Something! Anything! I become this guy. ---> We've got ice creams and lollipops and candies, allllll free today! Where do they keep the kids and all their associated flotsam in these houses? I imagine a set of graduated nesting boxes marked "baby" "toddler" "little boy/girl" "bigger boy/girl" and "teenager". Are the kids just more well behaved and trained in these houses? Are they all neat freaks with touches of OCD? Maybe they have a full-time nanny and a separate wing for her and everyone under 18. And a housekeeper. What? Where? How?
And then I started thinking what if there were a house rating system? How would kids rate houses?
***** totally kid friendly. No holds barred, messes allowed, junk food all the time.
**** kid friendly. Some rules, some messes allowed, good snacks
*** kid acquainted. More rules, few messes allowed, ok snacks
** kids might have lived here once a long time ago. Lots of rules, very few messes allowed, snacks are of the disgustingly healthy variety
* Danger! Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!
I think our house would rate 4 stars. Possibly 5 stars on some occasions. For the most part I don't mind being the kid friendly house in the family and possibly the neighborhood later on. You've got to be a grownup for an awfully long time so why not let the kids enjoy being kids for as long as possible? This is not to say that I'm going to abandon attempts to make my boys eat veggies, make sure they say please and thank you (even to the brother who's sitting on their head), tidy up and all that other good stuff. But I'm not going to let a spill or some paper scraps on the floor ruin our day. I'll figure out a way to get glue stick off the grownup wall. Because when all is said and done, I'd rather have a 4 star house than a 1 star house.
I'll just have to wait to have totally grownup house until the boys leave home. I'll be around 65 by then. I can live with that. I can enjoy it until whenever grandkids hopefully arrive and then I'm sure we'll be back to paper scraps and spills.
But I'm definitely going to hide all the glue sticks.