Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering. (from Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne)
The value of doing nothing? In our world that is unheard of. Sometimes I feel like a hamster in a wheel–running to exhaustion all day long with nothing really to show for it at the end. I pick up toys and vacuum up the crumbs of snacks, work on the budget, read stories to my son while he sits on his little toddler toilet, change my nephew’s diapers, search for the toddler tunes cd that is always wandering off, fix lunch, work on sewing for my baby girl, pick up more toys and vacuum up more crumbs, run the dishwasher, do a load or two of laundry, stare forlornly at the to-do lists, answer e-mails, make the grocery list, clip coupons, try to get up the energy to drag the boys to the store with me so we can eat something more nutritious, clean up after accidents, etc. And at the end of the day, the house is still a wreck but I am exhausted.
Sometimes, it seems good to me just to take a page out of Winnie the Pooh’s book and realize the value of doing nothing. The other day, I just sat and did nothing while my son colored with abandon all over the wall of the dining room. I would have stopped him if it had been the couch, or if he had been using a marker. But, he was having fun and he didn’t need me to actively participate in this fun, and Mr. Clean (God bless the people who make Mr. Clean) makes a magic eraser that I believe is truly magical. So I didn’t stop my son even though I saw him coloring on the walls (and it’s not the first time I’ve made this decision either!), choosing instead to do nothing. To not bother. And it was a good moment. He was proud of his art work, pleased with his quiet coloring time and I felt much more rested.
I read in a mommy book the other night a woman’s account of her college roommate slamming a book closed after a long night of study and exclaiming, “C+ works! Goodnight!” I am a first-born who has always believed I am supposed to make an A+ in everything. I can remember my dad’s disappointment when I made a 99 on an Indian long-house project in the seventh grade that he and I stayed up for two long nights finishing. It was beautiful. The teacher actually asked if she could keep it as an example to show future classes. But I forgot one tiny requirement on the instructions (a title for the project visible on the outside of it) and slapped on my project a hastily thought-out title scribbled on paper torn from my notebook and attached with scotch tape. So I lost one point out of a hundred. When my dad began to be angry with my teacher, it was terrible to have to tell him that the instructions were clear and I was the one who didn’t follow them. I felt like I let him down after he helped me so much with the project. He was pretty upset with me over that one point. (To be fair to my dad, though, he knew I could make a 100 on that project. When, in high school, I got in over my head in an honors physics class and brought home my only ever C grade, he didn’t say a word. He knew I had tried my best and just did not understand the math in that class.)
Anyway, I always expected to be an A+ homemaker. I thought I would be an overachiever as a mom. But the philosophy I’ve adopted over the last couple of years is this: A passing grade works. I will never get any awards for good housekeeping. But if my children are happy and I’m not losing my mind, who really cares if my house is barely passing? I don’t imagine anyone is actually grading me anyway. I don’t want to live in a trash heap and I do feel better if the house is clean. But for me, it’s enough if I can just go to bed with the toys off the floor and the dishes out of the sink. If I can get the laundry actually folded and put away, I feel like that takes me from a C to a B and I’m okay with that. I don’t imagine that Martha Stewart is going to show up to my house anytime soon with white gloves on to discover, in horror, that I haven’t dusted in an age. I’m sure our reputation will survive if someone drops by for an unexpected visit before I’ve erased my son’s artwork from the white walls.
Sometimes a passing grade is enough. Never underestimate the value of just Doing Nothing, of not bothering.