It’s the first warm weather of the year, and all the neighbor kids gravitate to our backyard. I’d like to say it’s the magnetic personalities of Oldest and Middle that draw them, but I’m afraid it’s a rusty old trampoline sans net and protective vinyl lining over the springs. Some of the neighbor children have permission to perch atop the trampoline but have been admonished by their parents against bouncing and jumping. Of course they conveniently forget, and I can witness any one of them doing exactly what they shouldn’t any time I catch a glimpse out the window. (My husband and I are dismantling this beast this weekend so it will soon not be a temptation.) For the time being, this reduces my afternoons to backyard policing of the trampoline and other matters. There was a group ice-cube fetish today and, while I changed Tiny’s diaper, the pack raided the kitchen, slamming ice cube trays against the table, dragging out my measuring cups (as “ice cube holders,” to take outside). They are supposed to remove their muddy shoes but have found a short-cut around shoe removal by simply wearing socks during their muddy backyard play. It takes me a while to catch on, and dirt clods and leaves accrete on the kitchen floor. I had to chase after those measuring cups too, which they promised to bring directly back and didn’t. And then one child burst in, indignant over another child’s threat of hurling a rock against her. “Did he throw a rock at you?” I ask. “No. But he was going to!” “I’m glad he didn’t,” I sigh and usher them back outside.
I hate cleaning, but I like a clean house. And I know children: they aren’t likely to halt at the first sign of their own muddy footprints and ask me for Murphy’s Oil Soap. They will drag my baking supplies to the backyard and forget about them in the sandbox. I muster patience. I muster tolerance and call out directions. I try to hide my grinchiness, remind myself about the importance of hospitality, and hospitality to children no less. As I washed the kitchen floor this afternoon, Oldest came in again for ice or kleenex. I asked, ashamed of my grinchiness, “Am I a friendly mom?” She shrugged and smiled, “Well, yeah. You’re friendly.” I guess she was telling the truth since she’s pretty good at that.
I decided I’m done with kitchen invasions for this afternoon. Now, when I hear the back door slam, which it does about every four minutes, I sing out, before knowing who it is, “Stop right there! What can I get for you?” like I am their own personal cruise director. But that’s okay, because cruise directing is much easier than cleaning detail. The last request was “just to stay inside for a while.” Everyone was playing hide and seek and she couldn’t find a place to hide. I realized that indulging the refugee was practically like beckoning a full on game of chase indoors. “That’s probably not very fair, is it?” I asked. “Do the other kids think it’s okay to hide inside?” She refugee sighed, acknowledging this truth, and returned outdoors.
Someday they’ll be so independent I’ll probably wish for a couple interruptions now and then. But right now, I am so ready for this mud to dry out and for Monday to come—because that’s when school’s in session.