Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Ever since we renovated our master bathroom a month ago I have this urge to make the rest of our house just as nice. Grown-up nice. Furniture that I didn’t have to assemble myself nice.  A bright white kitchen that gleams in the sunlight. A walk-in pantry with a secret shelf for all the cookies and candy I hide from the kids. Area rugs unsoiled by two children and a dog. However, since I birthed two Tasmanian devils instead of humans, I realize that the dream of a catalogue-worthy house will just have to wait. Wait a very long time.

I present you with Exhibit A in the case of “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”.

At least we have the master bathroom – our own personal fortress of solitude. Upon seeing it for the first time both my mother and sister-in-law  remarked on how easy it would be to shower the kids in there. Being the warm-hearted, selfless mother that I am, I cackled in a Maleficent-like way and said “Oh no no no. This bathroom is for US! The kids won’t get to use it. EVER!”

Maybe that sounds harsh but literally the entire house is completely and utterly devoted to them and their livelihood. From the moment we moved in we knew we were going to gut the bathroom so we let the kids splash in the huge tub and didn’t care how messy things got. But now, this sparkling new bathroom is the one room that my husband and I have decided they cannot touch. Mostly because we have childproof locks on the door to our bedroom AND the bathroom to prevent this from happening, but also because I think it’s okay for us to have a space that isn’t so clearly marked (and destroyed) by the presence of kids. Like Dorinda, we made it nice and we intend to keep it that way.

Top picture: the before. A tub built perfectly for two kids and a dachshund Bottom picture: the after: a grown-ups only shower. And we mean it.

There are toys, markers, crayons, bits of Play-Doh, paintbrushes, socks, shoes, clothing, crumbs, pieces of snacks past, hair ties, stuffed animals, and water bottles in every room of the house. Sand from the outdoor sandbox has now become a permanent fixture in our home despite the number of times I’ve swept and vacuumed. The clutter somehow reproduces despite my twice-daily attempts to clear space on the kitchen island to prepare our meals.

Cleanliness is strived for but rarely obtained. Olivia is stealthy with a (usually) washable marker and it’s not unlikely to walk into a room and know that she’s been there because something has her trademark “I own you, bitch” scribbles on it. Our furniture is merely gymnastics apparatus for my energetic sprites. Our kitchen table is multi-purpose: we paint, we eat, we color, we craft, and build LEGOs on it. It’s a home devoted to raising young children inside and out.

Just a typical day at our house.

So no, the idea of having “nice things” does not exist for us at this current moment. Yet, my heart wants it so. I blame Pinterest. But mostly I blame HGTV. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some HGTV.  The fixer-upper / flipping shows get me every time. There’s something so satisfying about watching an awful space made pretty. I ooh and ahh over gorgeous furniture swathed in luxe fabrics, perfectly appointed knick-knacks, and wallpaper so pretty that it makes you think “yeah, I could totally get behind wallpaper.”

These drool-worthy spaces are magnificent and well-designed. I’m so swept up in reveal until I watch as the couple’s young children are paraded in to check out their new house. That’s when the bubble bursts and you realize just how wildly unrealistic these pristine designer spaces are for the families that occupy them. I hope you’re DVRing your own episode of Fixer Upper family of six, because this is the nicest your house will ever look.

As a follow-up for all of these fixer-upper type shows, I would love for HGTV to pilot a new show called “Surprise, BITCH!” A program that shows what happens when kids stop being polite and start getting real.

Here’s my pitch: a few months after the home makeover, a HGTV camera crews pop up unexpectedly at the homes to “check-in” and see how the family is enjoying the new space.  Cue to the the parents with their jaw ßagape as they tremble “We-we-weren’t expecting any company…” and reluctantly allow the crew to come in.

The kids, dressed impeccably in Janie and Jack garments during the filming of the reveal, are now half-naked. The clothes they are wearing are their pajamas – it’s 1pm on a Saturday. They zoom around recklessly on toys that scratch the hand-scraped hardwood floors and nick the wainscoting. Everything once white and sterile a few months ago is now coated in a thin layer of beige grim with a spattering of dirty handprints along the main stairwell. The playroom, which originally only had five trendy and modern wooden toys displayed on a mid-century modern side table, currently looks like a ransacked Toys R’ Us three days before they closed their doors forever. The cute chalkboard, previously adorned with a perfectly calligraphed message reading “Dream Big, Mackenzie and Ashleigh!” is now completely covered in serial killer-like scribbles that will never be removed because they were done with a Sharpie. A Sharpie that somehow made its way from the junk drawer into the vintage galvanized metal toolbox a designer decided was a cute way to store crayons rather than locking them up high in a closet that your kids don’t know about for obvious reasons.

Instead of throw pillows that cost more than a semester credit hour at a liberal arts college, the high-end furniture is now adorned in bright orange Goldfish cracker crumbs and a pile of clean, but unfolded laundry that clash with the expertly selected objets. Objets that have been shoved and clustered onto the highest shelf of the built-ins surrounding a TV that plays the latest “educational” Nick Jr. program.

The kitchen. Well, that bowl of artistically arranged lemons and the depression glass cake dish with pretty little cupcakes have both been bubble wrapped and put into the basement to use  again once the kids are in college. The beautiful slab of marble on the oversized kitchen island is completely covered in children’s artwork, double A batteries, jars of Play-Doh, leftover breakfast, and piles of magazines that the mom swears she’s going to read one day so don’t you dare throw them out. The gorgeous farmhouse sink is filled with piles of dishes waiting to be loaded into the full dishwasher of clean dishes that still need to be put away.

The camera crew turns to the “must-have mudroom” to show that the one room built with the sole purpose of decreasing clutter and increasing cleanliness must at the very least be doing that for this poor, poor family. Alas, that is not the case. For having only two children, there are seemingly 457 different shoes strewn about the small room. None of which are in the wicker baskets that fit neatly underneath the bench seating. There is a garbage bag steaming near the door begging to be taken out to the curb. Well-meaning recycling bins are overflowing with milk jugs, egg cartons, and wine bottles. So many wine bottles.

The film crew sees themselves out, appalled that this Joanna Gaines masterpiece has fallen so far from grace. They stumble on miscellaneous toys that have migrated from the playroom to the foyer as the parents shrug their shoulders and go to reheat their coffee for the third time that day.

This is a show I can get behind. This is a show that I would gleefully watch as I sit with my blackened, dust-covered feet because my floors are forever unclean despite my liberal use of the Swiffer. I would sip my wine with a knowing nod and cheers to the parents who, like Icarus, flew too close to the sun and dreamed of a nice home. We need this. A show that proves that when you have young kids, you can’t have nice things.

I desperately want a new couch. But then what would they ever jump off of or eat snacks on?


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