I’ve always liked to think of myself as an organized person, but the reality is that I’m more of a methodical person than I am an organized one. Because in pretty much every area of my life, I’m messy.
My wife and I have two preschool aged boys. I’ve determined that it was instinctual for my children to be able to scan a room and determine how to make the biggest mess in the least amount of time. They are efficient, and they have the laws of thermodynamics on their side.
We also have eight teenage girls. Our girls seem determined to make sure their relationships are messy. Like a moth to a flame, so my girls are drawn to the sleaziest of boys. Their lives are filled with he said-she said stories of drama that at best make your eyeballs roll up into your head so hard that they get stuck there for a few seconds before coming back down, and at worst make you want to go take a shower while you stab your eardrums out.
My relationship with my wife is wonderful. We have been together for fourteen years now, married for close to eight. We know each other so well that we know what things always lead to arguments. For instance, if the word “laundry” is brought up in any sort of conversation, it is required that she and I find the most infinitesimal detail to argue over until one of us calls the other a name that we will later have to apologize for. We know of no other way. It’s how homeostasis is maintained in our home.
Recently my wife and I have been working with our boys to make sure they are helping clean up their own messes. And if they make an intentional mess, say by dumping out everything they can find from the pantry onto our kitchen floor, then they have some of their favorite toys taken away from them for a while.
It’s been a shaky start to some of these new habits of getting a 4 and 5 year old to clean up after themselves, but there’s progress, and that seems like all I could hope for at this point in time. Entropy is hard to stop.
Our girls are learning, sometimes the hard way, the qualities they should be looking for in a partner. I tell them that this means becoming the type of person they want to be with: a person of integrity, respect, honesty, and empathy. Due to the fact that their prefrontal cortexes are very much underdeveloped, they have to hear a lot of what I’ve coined “papa bear convos” with me about some of the poor decisions they make with other kids they “love forever” and of whom they want to “have their babies.”
My wife and I are co-workers in our job, partners in our parenting, and best friends. Our workplace is our home. These details make it impossible for life to move on by without any messes being made relationally. We’ve had to learn how to better communicate and recognize our needs to make sure we continue to grow and flourish in our marriage. And so we trudge through the messes and yet we enjoy the times of clarity and making deeper and stronger bonds with each other. Because my wife is a woman of integrity, respect, honesty, and empathy. And she is someone I love forever and has had my babies.
All this doesn’t account for the bags of trash waiting by the door still needing to be thrown out to the dumpster. This doesn’t account for the pile of socks that sit on the floor on my side of the bed because I’ve never learned how to put my socks in the hamper, (much to Sarah’s displeasure). This doesn’t account for the fact that there always seems to be fast food wrappers or Starbucks cups in our car that sit there for weeks before they get thrown out.
Messes just seem to be a part of life. And we’re still learning how to best work through the messes in our life. Life would be boring otherwise.