Signs of life

By Published On: January 1st, 2015

It’s a new year, and we’re headed into it with […]

downloadIt’s a new year, and we’re headed into it with a new family member (he’s 4 months old now, but I still consider that new.) We’re knee deep in all that comes with this new life. There’s the crying, midnight feedings, diaper changes, puke on clothes, messy house, undone dishes, etc. There’s also the smiles, the laughs, the gooing and cooing, and the anticipation of the person he will grow into one day. There are the messy parts of life and the joyful parts of life, but the important thing in both is that there is life.
Sometimes, I come home from work to see a house littered with toys and toddlers chasing each other around the table while yelling at the top of their lungs. I wade through the chaos to find my wife in the kitchen, hard at work on dinner. She immediately breaks into apologies for how messy the house is and how she burned the rice on the stove and how everything seems so stressful. I give her a smile and chuckle at the irony of it all because I haven’t the least bit of worry or irritation over the the things she’s so apologetic about.
I respond by asking her only one question: “How did you love our children today?” I’m inviting her to tell me about the snacks she made, the hour she took to talk with our daughter about her feelings, the lessons she taught our children, the extra feeding the baby needed before nap, the book she read aloud to the children even when she would rather be napping herself.
Once she hears herself talk about all of the incalculably valuable ways in which she loved our children, the mess of toys and the burned rice suddenly take on their proper significance. They are minor inconveniences hardly worthy of notice. They are only important in the sense that they are signs of life. The floor is messy because we were busy doing other things that are vastly more important than picking up toys.
I know some who love order and calm in their environments so much that they will practically chase children away. Their homes are immaculately cleaned and meticulously ordered. They feel like tombs and museums because there is something very important missing: life.
Yes, life is messy, but it gets that way because we care more about the quintessential parts of life than the fleeting things at the periphery. The mess on the floor is the evidence that we invested our time and energy where it matters most. I would actually begin to worry that perhaps our priorities are misplaced if I came home to a clean house and a perfectly cooked meal every day. Clean up time can wait until after the baby is in bed, because we have life to enjoy together right now, in all its glorious mess.