Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Sadly, this is not the first time I have had this conversation with Sis:
“Who’s coming over today?”
“No one, Sis. It is just us today.”
“Then why are you cleaning?”
Busted. Ninety-nine out of one hundred days we wouldn’t pass a ‘white glove’ test around here. I am always frustrated by my children's honest and innocent inquiry. It points out weakness. Rubs salt in a wound. Shines a bright light into a dark corner full of evidence of a lesson I am steadily teaching my daughter. We polish it up when other people are coming around. In fact, we calculate our ability to offer hospitality to friends and strangers alike based on whether or not our material possessions and family artifacts have been dusted and organized. We place a high value on what others think.
Maybe that is taking it too far. Of course we prepare for guests. It is a sign of respect and an appropriate gesture. And even though I have seen ample evidence that everyone is happier when we aren’t stepping on Legos, I still choose to invest my time in ways that feel right and important, leaving the home as the great casualty of my parenting philosophy and philanthropic interests. So, I say to the critical devil on my shoulder, let it go. Be kind to yourself.
But still I am unnerved by the undercurrent of my daughter’s question, the wee-bitty truth that she is taking notes on. We don’t offer each other our best. We save that for others. Like the fine china. Or special soap. Last week I had the annual opportunity to see my health care provider and drape myself awkwardly in the paper gowns that allegedly tie in the back. I had been wanted to paint my toenails for weeks, but finally made time that morning, as a defense against the humility of the doctor’s office. “Wow, you must really like Nancy,” my husband teased. Painted toes for the nurse practitioner. Fresh towels for the guests. Clean toilets for the repair man. Leftovers for dinner.
“And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4