This morning, when I got back from doing the school run, I unlocked the door, awkwardly shimmied past Jude’s pram and Henry’s scooter - both of which appear to be permanently wedged in our hallway (a standoff over who should clean the mud-encrusted wheels) – and then, in a slapstick Tom & Jerry style move, I trod on PC Selby’s police car (one of several Postman Pat toys young Jude received in his stocking from the big FC) and I went flying, travelling at least a metre towards the stairs with my arms flailing. Had it not been for the pram, which I grabbed hold of on my way to the floor, I think I might have broken something. Or died. Imagine that! Death by treading on PC Arthur Selby’s police car would be such a tragic tale, would it not? Anyway, the pram came to the rescue so I felt bad for having cursed the 'twatting obstacle course' on my way out.
I must have looked all kinds of ridiculous taking flight with one foot on a toy vehicle and both arms windmilling, and, after an initial chuckle to myself, I had to have a little sit down on the sofa to recompose myself, a bit like old people do when they've ‘had a fall.’ As I assessed the state of the living-room - which looks a lot like we’ve been burgled with all the contents of the drawers and cupboards spilling out onto the floor - I realised that the toy explosion in front of me was evidence of the morning we’d had before the school run.
It told a story, and as I sat for a moment I allowed my mind to piece it all back together: ‘Baby Richard’ the dolly, discarded to one side because Jude had got bored ‘feeding’ him so had plonked him down and moved on to take a call from Miss Rabbit on his phone. The plastic toy tub, upturned, because Henry had been wearing it on his head, shouting, ‘I am a Dalek!’ The stacking cubes arranged in an unconventional top-heavy tower alongside a pole which started its life as a mast for a toy ship before the ship fell foul of rough play and ended up in the ‘Bye-bye box’ in the loft (absolutely not at the dump if Henry asks because we are not allowed to take broken things to the dump or put them in the bin, not even broken pen lids).
To the side of the boxes lay a collection of Nerf bullets which, I realised, had been forming the basis of a ‘trap’ – Henry is very much into making traps these days and although none of them actually work we must pretend they do, which is all well and good until you’re trying to cook dinner and get called away from the hob to theatrically act out being caught in his non-existent deadly webs. PC Selby’s police car was positioned as a death-trap in the hallway because prior to us all having trudged out into the cold it had been PC Selby’s mission to save a Sylvanian rabbit from ‘the witch’ who appears to be everywhere both inside and outside of our house at the moment, despite being invisible.
I have lost count of the number of times since becoming a parent that I have cursed the state of the house, muttering under my breath about the ‘piles of plastic crap’ and sighing at having to contort myself into a size zero to get past that pram which has left the already-narrow hallway so snug I pretty much had intercourse with the electrician as I showed him out the other day. But this morning, as I sat in a quiet house, staring at the usual trail of destruction, I saw things differently. I reviewed the evidence.
And for once, I wasn’t looking at it like it was the evidence from a crime scene, nor was I rushing to stuff all the toys back into their boxes while wondering aloud why I bloody bother tidying up in the first place. Because, I realised, the chaos is what makes our house a home.
The toothbrush on the side reminds me of the daily battle to get my two-year-old to let me brush his teeth, which usually results in him trying to bite me and somebody crying.
The mud-encrusted pram reminds me of the walk we went on where we argued about the suitability of the terrain for our pram (I feel I have made my point).
The washing draped over radiators and chairs reminds me that I haven’t been on top of the washing situation for the last four years because kids are messy and life is busy.
The dishes on the table remind me that there were two boys shovelling Weetos into their mouths while singing ‘Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg’ and laughing so hard that milk came out of their noses.
All of it, the total pandemonium, is what reminds me that there are children living here. It’s not a showhome, it’s a family home - it's messy and lived-in and loved.
Yes, I will continue to curse the pram as I bash into it with my hip and I will continue to nag my children to put a few things away so it looks slightly less like a tornado has hit. But just for a moment this morning I imagined photoshopping all the chaos out of the picture and I didn't much like it.
One day, the time will come when the dining table is clear, the cupboards are tidy and all the washing is up to date. Perhaps it will be when my children have grown up and moved out, when I have started grilling them about their relationship statuses to assess my chances of becoming a grandmother.
One day, I reckon I will have the sanctuary of calm I so desperately longed for only it won't feel much like a sanctuary at all.
I will miss the chaos.
So thank you, PC Arthur Selby in your tiny police car, for being kind enough to trip me up and remind me of that.
I would like to apologise to anybody who has clicked on this blog post hoping for something mathematical about deterministic dynamics or some clever commentary about the 'butterfly effect'. I'm afraid this post doesn't really explore Chaos Theory at all.