Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dirty Details

For almost three years I worked at an organization that is intensely detail oriented. This is an attention to detail that is, simply, beyond ordinary. It is tedious; it is maddening; and at times it is neurotic.  And I loved it.  I relished the information stored in concise records of interviews, in summaries, and in analytical spreadsheets; I reveled in my workpapers colored heavily with blue hyperlinks linking back to source documents; I championed the tracing and referencing procedures that ensured that every sentence, every word I wrote for a final report could be linked back to supporting documentation. At the end of each day my office was re-organized back into piles of paperwork and binders, my electronic documents stored neatly in appropriate electronic folders.  And it is this sense of satisfaction from an organized day that has, at times, made me think that staying at home full time with three small children will drive me absolutely mad.

I simply cannot keep the contents of my household from slipping and sliding all over the place. It would be as if someone were to sneak into my work computer at night and jumble my sentences or un-link my hyperlinks (gasp). No, here I have three little bandits cleverly watching and waiting for me to leave one tidied room and move to another so they can "play" in the "open space." There are no rules here about touching a person's work; this is the wild west, and I'm on their ground, now.

So what to do. I've tried pulling my hair out; I've tried running behind them and re-cleaning what was just cleaned. I've tried doing nothing at all and letting the contents of the insanity simply unfold. None of these have been satisfactory. I've settled for a grey middle ground of mostly messy or mostly clean depending on the eye of the beholder. This is yet another area of growth, of sharpening. I must learn to co-exist with people; not punctuation marks. I must learn to rub shoulders with little bodies that grin and giggle and shed tears and voice opinions and have so much energy that if only they could be harnessed they could do some seriously productive work. But they are children; not employees. And I am their mother; not their boss.

So I will get down on my hands and knees and play horse; I will let them paint in my freshly cleaned kitchen. I will leave them alone in the basement with a bag full of legos and try to stifle my horrified screams when I hear the contents of the bag being spread all over the floor.

I will do these things, because I am a mother, and I'm learning that to be a mother means to be scraped, to be pruned, to (sigh)... let go. And I sense that this one will be a lesson I will never, ever, fully learn.

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