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It’s been a long week. I’ve worked some long hours recently and as a result Paul has been taking on most of the household and childcare duties. The problem with that is that we have glaringly different ideas of acceptable levels of tidiness in the home, and in dress codes for the kids. In my world odd socks are not appropriate attire, (unless it’s 6am and the only other option is no socks at all), in Paul’s world this is not only acceptable but also to be encouraged. Equally, my idea of housework is to actually do housework, his is to hide whatever he can and get the kids to hide the rest.

I’ve got my niece staying with me at the moment, she is two days younger than my eldest and I love her being here. Not only is she company for the eldest, but she is fun and I can pretend I have a daughter without all the hassle of actually having a daughter!! I get the good bits, the cuddles and the girlie chats, without having to 1) give birth, or 2) nag her about the amount of make up that she wears! Anyway, as you can probably guess, life is hectic in my house at the moment!

As the cleaning fairy appears to have given up and left me to my own pathetic devices, I spent a few hours yesterday evening cleaning and tidying up the downstairs, (I mean honestly, no one sees upstairs so why bother?) it actually looked presentable by the time I left home this morning. It would never have passed an inspection by my nana, but hey, if someone (God forbid) visited unexpectedly I could probably pretend I was yet to tidy up and apologise for the mess!

Anyway, I’d mopped and swept the floors, tided up and washed up, put the washing on etc. I went off to work safe in the knowledge that the house looked ok (ish). I received a few missed calls from the eldest during the course of the day and when I rung him back he said he’d sorted out whatever he wanted in the first place. He also asked if he and my niece could go out on the bikes. No problem, says I, be home for tea. It was raining, I told them not to make a mess.

I picked up the younger two and got home around five. I walked into the front room, all was well. It was when I got to the dining room that I started to notice that things weren’t quite as I had left them. The mop and bucket were sitting prominently in the centre of the room, there were a few bits of mud on the floor. The dustpan and brush were on the dining table. Nothing much. A bit annoying but 2 minutes of sorting it out and things would be fine. Then I walked into the kitchen. Ah, the kitchen. It was a sight to behold: first off the bin was open and there were about 50 sheets of kitchen roll covered in some sort of black gunk. There were also the remains of some sort of doughy cooking, which I quickly identified (from the half empty bottle on top of the pile) as burnt pancakes!

I cast my eyes over to the cooker hob. It was covered in smears from where someone (only eldest and niece were home) had obviously made a mess when cooking and had wiped up rather ineptly. The work tops shared the same coating of smeared food. The draining board contained a huge pile of semi clean pots, pans, glasses, and bowls. It was piled up like a game of jenga, ready to topple at any moment! Actually in the sink was a massive over sized sponge, covered in mud and the wall, cupboard door and floor had splashes and slightly muddy puddles. I felt my hackles rising. I’d cleaned this place. It had looked ok. Why did they do this? I was annoyed.

And then I realised something. I was getting annoyed but actually I was looking at this all wrong. I was looking at the mess, what I wasn’t seeing was what is was evidence of. Instead I was seeing it as a bad thing, they had ruined all my hard work, but in reality it was evidence of many things and none of them were bad.

It was evidence they had been cooking, that they had tried to cook something that they had never done before. And they had failed, and continued to try. They had also recognised the mess and had tried to sort it out, because they knew that would make me happy. The smears on the cookers and worktop were evidence that they had attempted to tidy up.

The muddy puddles and splashes were from where they had tried to wash the mud from their bikes, they had tried to make me happy and in the process had probably made more of a mess, but the intention was good. And I was proud of them. They had also given me evidence that they had been out of the house, having fun and not watching TV or playing XBox.

The huge pile of jenga style washing up proved that they’d not only tidied up their own mess but they had also tried to tidy up the breakfast things I hadn’t had time to wash up before I left the house.

Sometimes, people may not always get things right, but the sentiment behind what they do can mean even more than the action itself.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, those two kids will never be His right hand man, however. In that moment they were Angels to me.