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Susan Stiffelman Headshot

Embracing My Messy Home

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MESSY HOME

I love that my house is messy. I love that there are dishes on the coffee table and socks carelessly tossed around the living room. I love that several slightly used tissues are peeking out from under the pillows on the couch, next to my son's ever-present guitar. And I love that the smoothie shaker sits next to a mostly empty glass of milk, all conveniently located in front of the TV, where a lot of basketball is being watched.

Mostly, I love that wherever I look, I see signs of my boy, that six-foot-five fella who has been scarce around here because of that college thing he has going on. He's back now for the summer, and as much as I love the life I live when he's away, something in the universe feels perfect and right now that he's home.

Don't get me wrong. I like a tidy house as much as the next momma. And truth be told, my kid is pretty great about cleaning up after himself. But I can't describe how much pleasure it brings me to have things out of order, a little askew in a way that only happens when you have kids around.

I can remember -- dimly -- a time when I found it irritating to clean up after him. Sounds crazy, but with him having been away so much, it's hard to remember how annoying it was to have socks all over the living room and dirty dishes on the coffee table. But I know there was a time when it mattered much more to me that my house was spiffy. And I'm pretty sure I'll start remembering it -- and feeling that irritation -- once he's been home a few weeks.

But for now, I'm just enjoying the sweetness of it all. This morning we made a big breakfast together -- he cooks a lot now, which is a cool. Tonight after dinner, I made the guys a big bowl of my famous popcorn, delighted to partake with them in a old ritual.

It is different -- don't get me wrong. And it should be. My son's becoming a man and is leaning much more into his own life -- his job, internship, friends and all that. He spends a lot of time on his own, doing his thing while I do mine. I don't know where he is the way I once did, or when he'll be home. It's definitely, and appropriately, different.

But all that is a function of the outward adjustments we're each making as we sort out how to be parent/son while he grows up. Still, we're figuring out -- through trial and error -- how to be around each other in this new way. (He lived on his own last year in New York, so this is the longest run he's had at home since going off to college.)

What's really going on, for me, is a quiet hum of momma contentment. There's an unspeakable joy at having my son here, probably accentuated (a lot) because I'm (a lot) more aware of how fleeting this time with him is.

So having the socks or the dirty dishes just doesn't seem like a big deal. It's all so precious to me now, now that I recognize the lightning speed with which my son is barreling toward his own, independent life.

I'm cheering him on, encouraging him as he takes steps further out of the nest. (Strange, how this works.) I love that he's buying an old beater (car) for the summer and going to Africa in the fall. The whole process of watching him move further into his life thrills me.

But I am also cherishing this time, allowing myself to be more present with each moment, sort of like savoring a piece of chocolate rather than polishing off the whole box distractedly.

Like anything else, we tend to appreciate most what is in short supply. When our kids are little, the tasks seem endless, as do the dirty dishes. But when you arrive at the stage where I am now, the edges soften, and the little things -- a meal together, a moment playing with the dog -- become golden.

I love my messy house, and everything in it. Especially right now.

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