Sunday, May 8, 2011

Seeds Grow in Dirt (My Mother's Day essay, oft told)

It was a rotten year and a half for housework.

My New Year’s resolution was to keep my house utterly clean. I washed walls, I organized closets, I dreamed of shininess.

Then, my oldest son had a problem with school. And pregnancy happened—never my finest hours. Within a short time I was a pregnant, home-schooling mom of four kids under ten with a perpetual headache. A major accomplishment for the day was setting out the cold cereal at mealtime.

The year went on. Home-school continued, and the baby arrived, and everyone knows how productive those first few months aren’t with a newborn. If her little white nightgowns were clean, I felt like queen of all housework.

Meanwhile, grime pockets formed behind doors, dust bunnies grew and had bunny families—several generations of them. The top of our old piano started to collect so many items it could open an antique store of its own. At a low point, there was a two-week period where someone broke a different item made of glass every single day. For some reason I got called to the Relief Society presidency, just to add to the chaos.

Months passed. Baby learned to crawl. My year teaching a bright, much happier, 4th grader wound down. The two preschoolers started to be a little less prone to break glass. But the house languished, nay, wallowed in its filth, especially the formerly light blue carpet. In fact, one spring afternoon after Little League, I had an argument with Zane, who insisted our carpet is grey. “Light blue,” I claimed half-heartedly, barely remembering the true color myself.

Summer came. All five kids tracked in roughly 75 pounds of dirt from their treasure pit in the sand pile and about a million squished leaves from their fort under the nectarine tree. My girls had birthday parties for their teddy bears that for some reason involved crumbling blueberry muffins into oblivion on the grey carpet, possibly in an attempt to turn it blue again. I got drafted to be the interim Webelos leader and actually sanctioned large messes in the house. Cousins came over and incited a game as destructive as it sounds: Toy War. We went through our twelfth 100-count box of Otter Pops and our second vacuum cleaner motor (due to renegade thread while the oldest three kids learned embroidery.)

When mid-August rolled around, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Stephen went back to fifth grade, and he found a niche in learning there. Zane opted out of soccer, so we now only had one uniform to find on Saturday mornings. Rachel started kindergarten, and Catherine dropped out of preschool after a month to stay home to paint and do coloring books with mom. Baby Zuzu could now walk around by herself, looking for stray popcorn kernels to gnaw on with her two teeth.

Things got quieter around home.

With a sense of newfound power, I conducted a yard sale, which made it so we could park inside our garage again. Miracle. Next I looked to tackle the house.

That first morning, however, I caught a glimpse of our kitchen sink, the drainer side. Whoa. How long had it been? A while, for sure. Gingerly I lifted the drainer.

Oh. My. Goodness. What was that green thing?

I pulled out the clean, drying measuring cups and lifted the rack from the sink. Yep, something was definitely growing there: a two-pronged leaf sprout, about four inches tall.

With a squeal of horror I plucked out the sink stopper and found the little white root ball and what looked like the yellow-brown transparent hull of a popcorn kernel around its base. Or maybe it was one of Gary’s gardening projects. Or an escaped food-storage black eyed pea?

No! How could I have let the sink cleaning lapse long enough for a seed to germinate and sprout—plus grow four inches? I wanted to cry. What a terrible housekeeper. My kids could probably get some kind of disease from filth this rampant! My word! A seed grew in my sink!

Then a thought stopped my self-berating rant.

Hey. Seeds grow in dirt.

In the past couple of years my most precious seeds, all five of them, had grown an awful lot in this dirt.

Now, I certainly hadn’t been a perfect mother by anyone’s definition. I hadn’t kept a cheery temperament every single day. I hadn’t nurtured my children in every way possible. Without question, I had not created an “antiseptic environment” for my little ones to play and learn in.

But they grew.

I know they say cleanliness is next to godliness. Whoever “they” are, they’re mean. That’s too much pressure. Seriously. Instead I find myself thinking maybe other things wedge their way into the lineup beside godliness. Maybe doing-the-best-you-can-motherhood is one of them. After all, God helps all things to grow. Maybe that’s what motherhood is all about.

Now, it’s not that I will henceforth refuse to scrub my tub or decide never to replace that ailing vacuum. But God formed Man out of the dust of the Earth. Perhaps I ought to be aiming to do that, too—to form men and women out of these sweet little seeds they are now, and remember that most seeds require all kinds of light, and water (that’d be Saturday night baths), and at least a little dirt. Because seeds grow in dirt.


  1. Now THAT is an awesome post. But I have to say I would have freaked out when I found the germinating seed. However, since it happened to YOU, I can laugh hysterically! Thank you, dear cousin! Kindred mothers, indeed.

  2. Wonderful post! Hope you're having a great day today.

  3. Thanks, ladies. Two of my most admired mothers you are!

  4. My cousin once had a toadstool growing behind her toilet. I thought, at the time, that she must be a hideous housekeeper. Now I know better. The Schtuff edging further and further into the middle of my living room and kitchen can attest to that.
    Housework will always be there. Kids won't.


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