This is the inevitable result of letting a six-year-old and a three-year-old unload the dishwasher alone. Little hands, eager and fumbling, lose traction on glossy espresso mugs, and there is a muffled clack and then a collective intake of breath and then two patterns of footsteps, one clambering to escape guilt by association and one dragging. From the next room, I hurry to the rescue of floundering emotions and surprise myself by meaning the words of assurance that instinctively slip out: “It’s okay, it’s just a cup.”
I’ve been reluctant for years to let the girls help around the house, primarily for this reason. Letting them help means mess. Scratch that, MESS. It means tasks taking twice as long and being done half as well, and it requires an expanse of my attention and patience that could be more effectively spent on writing the next Great American Novel or cooking homemade cosmetics à la Julie & Julia. It is far more convenient to slip in my earphones and plow through the housework myself.
Of course, doing the housework myself leads to the inevitable result of Time Deficit Despair, and some gentle prompting by my husband has convinced me to start taking advantage of the cheap child labor we conceived. The thing that baffles me is how much the girls want to work. If I enlist their help around the house all morning, their moods are easily 90% brighter than if I keep them out of the way with toys or cartoons while I do the work alone. They dance while dusting and giggle while hanging the laundry, raising valid suspicion that I am not the mother. (Dan??) The atmosphere around here is so much better than it was when I was running a one-woman show, and if I step back and let them do tasks on their own, I actually, unbelievably, save time. Totally ground-breaking concept, I know.
So really? It is okay. It is just a cup (and one already immortalized by my blog header at that). It’s an occupational hazard of letting my children take responsibility while they’re still young and enthusiastic, and I’ll gladly trade the occasional dropped dish for the happy balance we’re all finding as a result.