When Doug and I moved into our first home, a neighbor came over to visit and brought her new baby in tow. She sat down and glanced over at my formal dining room where I had just lovingly displayed my grandmother’s china in the glass hutch with the dimming light. “Yeaaaaaah,” she drawled. “When you have kids, that’s going to have to go.” Then she pointed to our built-in bookcases where I had stacks and stacks of favorite novels and a few knick-knacks. “That, too. Your kids will be climbing them in no time, ripping out the pages of books and throwing the vases. Might as well pack it up.”
I was horrified at her comment and I have to admit that five years later, I’m still pretty miffed at it. According to her, I had to pack up everything I loved and everything that made my house feel like my home, just because I had children. Furthermore, the idea that a child would sit and rip the pages out of a book made me never want to procreate.
So the idea was that a hurricane toddler would destroy my home and there was nothing I could do about it but embrace the mess, right? Why not just teach that some objects are off-limits for little hands and teach respect of possessions?
Despite her warnings, Doug and I did have a baby in our home with the china cabinet and bookcases and wool rugs. Hey! Those things are all in one piece! We simply set boundaries for him. He was not to play in the dining room, which meant there was no risk of him climbing the china cabinet. We taught him not to pull books off the shelves (although I did move my collectors’ books to a secure place just in case). He’s not allowed to pull on the drapes. I cleaned regularly and had him help me pick up as soon as it was developmentally appropriate. When I purchased a few new things for our new house (like a mirrored bedside table and cream upholstered bed), my mother laughed that I was buying things like I didn’t have a toddler. I just waved her comment away — I like these things and it simply means no cranberry juice or chocolate for the kid in the bedroom.
Our house isn’t a museum, either … I pick things that I like, but I also select items that are easy to wash, easy to clean, and easy to replace if need be. Harrison is free to sit on the couches and run inside with his shoes on and play cars on the coffee table. We live in our house, but because we live in it, I want it to be pretty.
I’m not a perfect mother. I’ll never say I’m perfect. But I still strongly disagree that having children means a destroyed home.
And guess what? My china cabinet is still standing.
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