I need your help.
I need to know if I have flat out given up or just accepted the fact that I have kids.
We have owned four homes since we have been married. We have always kept them looking nice.
Until about a year ago, I was very strict with how the children treated our house. I only allowed crayons, markers or pens at the kitchen table when I was going to be there to monitor. Only a few times did I ever allow the kids to paint, and I was right at the table with them.
Outside toys like balls and golf clubs stayed outside. Plastic swords and guns were not allowed inside or outside. Running was only allowed outside or in the basement. No one played on a level of the house unless I was nearby to monitor.
Last year our two oldest were, well, getting older. At 8 and 6, they understood not to color on the walls or kick a ball at the TV. The younger two, at 3 and 2, didn’t yet know how to follow all the rules all the time, but we thought it was no longer fair to the older two to be so rigid.
We decided to make the coloring more accessible, allow some outside toys in our finished basement and give the children near free range with swords, light sabers and Nerf guns.
The results have been appalling.
Our dining room, which Santa turned into a classroom with the hope of keeping the mess contained, looks like it was attacked by a mad Picasso. Two of the walls are marked in red, blue, orange and black markers. The carpet has bits of crayon and Play-Doh in it. The thermostat is gray instead of white because somebody colored it with a pencil.
It might have been OK if the mess had stayed in that one room. It hasn’t. There are colorful marks on the wall in the living room and by the stairs. There are even drawings on the basement walls.
And that’s not all. Ben loves hockey. For his birthday last winter, we gave him a hockey net, two hockey sticks and six light-weight red and yellow plastic pucks. How were we to know he could whack a puck so hard? Now there are black, yellow and red marks all over the walls, along with several dents.
During last year’s nearly endless winter, I decided to show the kids all six of the Star Wars movies. I hoped it would keep them from going too stir crazy and that they might learn to love them as much as I did.
I was wrong. They loved them more! We had to get them light sabers after they made their own out of anything long and thin. A year later, they are still bruising each other’s hands almost daily or leaving “battle scars” on the walls.
The furniture hasn’t fared any better. Only half of the kids’ dresser drawers work properly because they slam them shut without making sure the clothes are folded so they fit or because they have used the bottom drawers as step stools to reach the top ones.
All of the upholstery on our kitchen chairs are stained with food. It’s only a matter of time before they wear holes in the couches.
I have been tempted many times to throw away every marker and crayon we own, lock the hockey sticks outside, put all the kids’ clothes in plastic tubs and repair and re-paint every room in the house. It hasn’t happened yet.
Maybe I’ve accepted the fact that this is the way our house is going to look for the next few years. Maybe I have gotten so tired of saying, “No!” that I have given up.
What do you think? Does your home have its own kid scars?
Al Watts is the President of Daddyshome, Inc. – The National At-Home Dad Network and an at-home dad of four children living in west Omaha.