It happened when the kids were tiny – wee on the living room rug, sick on the sofa, poo in the corner (don’t ask), scribbles on the wallpaper, rips on their books. And I don’t recall being that upset about it. Maybe I was, and I just can’t remember. It’s like when I used to ask my mum for potty training tips, or any child-training memories that might help. Invariably, she pulled a face and said it was all a blank. ‘These things shall pass’, my husband’s granny said to me, one sleep-deprived, washed out day. I didn’t really believe her, but of course she was right. They did pass, and I’ve got at least one foot out the other side.
But. I’m finding myself spinning back into those uncontrollable days. Why? We got a puppy. She does sleep all night, which is better than a baby. She can be put outside when she barks too much (don’t try that with a child, tempting as it may be). She can sit when asked. However, the number of precious things she is trying to wreck is growing.
The worst was the climber I’d got for my birthday. I’d put a row of canes all round it to warn the dog off, but there was a label on it she simply had to have, and eventually after a day of opening the door and shouting to stop her, she pulled the whole thing out, and bounced around the garden with it. That was at least two weeks ago, and we can’t for the life of us find the plant. A bureau that belonged to a granny now has little teeth marks and scratches on its edges. The velcro tabs on the chairs are holding on by a thread. My Anne of Green Gables book covers have been surreptitiously ripped at the corners. And the garden, well, it is strewn with sticks, covered with digging holes and with hazardous loose tiles (she likes to scrape off the plaster on the back).
What is life if it doesn’t have a bit of mess and chaos in it? In those blissful times when everyone’s away, I find myself straightening wonky furniture, cleaning grubby cupboards and floors and then sitting back pleased that order has been restored. For about five minutes, before I start missing my noisy children, looking outside for the maniac dog, waiting for it all to start again. (Until they are actually there that is, and I start screaming about wiping feet, tidying rooms, not dropping crumbs, leaving the garden alone… )
I wish I was the type of person who just shrugged her shoulders and laughed saying ‘that’s life’. I am not. But I am learning to look less at the mess, and more at the people (or dog) that made it. Talk to me when I’m seventy, and I’ll tell you it doesn’t bother me any more. They are just rugs, just sofas, just books, just clematis after all.
Wait! She’s outside again, running at high speed round the garden, and what is that in her mouth?!
It looks awfully like my peace of mind.