Monday, 23 January 2017

Chaos Theory

This morning, when I got back from doing the school run, I unlocked the door, awkwardly shimmied past Jude’s pram and Henry’s scooter - both of which appear to be permanently wedged in our hallway (a standoff over who should clean the mud-encrusted wheels) – and then, in a slapstick Tom & Jerry style move, I trod on PC Selby’s police car (one of several Postman Pat toys young Jude received in his stocking from the big FC) and I went flying, travelling at least a metre towards the stairs with my arms flailing. Had it not been for the pram, which I grabbed hold of on my way to the floor, I think I might have broken something. Or died. Imagine that! Death by treading on PC Arthur Selby’s police car would be such a tragic tale, would it not? Anyway, the pram came to the rescue so I felt bad for having cursed the 'twatting obstacle course' on my way out.

I must have looked all kinds of ridiculous taking flight with one foot on a toy vehicle and both arms windmilling, and, after an initial chuckle to myself, I had to have a little sit down on the sofa to recompose myself, a bit like old people do when they've ‘had a fall.’ As I assessed the state of the living-room - which looks a lot like we’ve been burgled with all the contents of the drawers and cupboards spilling out onto the floor - I realised that the toy explosion in front of me was evidence of the morning we’d had before the school run. 

It told a story, and as I sat for a moment I allowed my mind to piece it all back together: ‘Baby Richard’ the dolly, discarded to one side because Jude had got bored ‘feeding’ him so had plonked him down and moved on to take a call from Miss Rabbit on his phone. The plastic toy tub, upturned, because Henry had been wearing it on his head, shouting, ‘I am a Dalek!’ The stacking cubes arranged in an unconventional top-heavy tower alongside a pole which started its life as a mast for a toy ship before the ship fell foul of rough play and ended up in the ‘Bye-bye box’ in the loft (absolutely not at the dump if Henry asks because we are not allowed to take broken things to the dump or put them in the bin, not even broken pen lids). 

To the side of the boxes lay a collection of Nerf bullets which, I realised, had been forming the basis of a ‘trap’ – Henry is very much into making traps these days and although none of them actually work we must pretend they do, which is all well and good until you’re trying to cook dinner and get called away from the hob to theatrically act out being caught in his non-existent deadly webs. PC Selby’s police car was positioned as a death-trap in the hallway because prior to us all having trudged out into the cold it had been PC Selby’s mission to save a Sylvanian rabbit from ‘the witch’ who appears to be everywhere both inside and outside of our house at the moment, despite being invisible. 

I have lost count of the number of times since becoming a parent that I have cursed the state of the house, muttering under my breath about the ‘piles of plastic crap’ and sighing at having to contort myself into a size zero to get past that pram which has left the already-narrow hallway so snug I pretty much had intercourse with the electrician as I showed him out the other day. But this morning, as I sat in a quiet house, staring at the usual trail of destruction, I saw things differently. 

I reviewed the evidence. 

And for once, I wasn’t looking at it like it was the evidence from a crime scene, nor was I rushing to stuff all the toys back into their boxes while wondering aloud why I bloody bother tidying up in the first place. Because, I realised, the chaos is what makes our house a home.

The toothbrush on the side reminds me of the daily battle to get my two-year-old to let me brush his teeth, which usually results in him trying to bite me and somebody crying. 

The mud-encrusted pram reminds me of the walk we went on where we argued about the suitability of the terrain for a pram (I feel I have made my point). 

The washing draped over radiators and chairs reminds me that I haven’t been on top of the washing situation for the last four years because life is busy and kids are messy.

The dishes on the table remind me that there were two boys sloppily shovelling Weetos into their mouths while singing ‘Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg’ and laughing so hard that milk came out of their noses.

All of it, the total pandemonium, is what reminds me that there are children living here. It’s not a showhome, it’s a family home - it's messy and lived-in and loved. 

Yes, I will continue to curse the pram as I bash into it with my hip and I will continue to nag my children to put a few things away so it looks slightly less like a tornado has hit. But just for a moment this morning I imagined photoshopping all the chaos out of the picture and I didn't much like it. 

One day, the time will come when the dining table is clear, the cupboards are tidy and all the washing is up to date. Perhaps it will be when my children have grown up and moved out, when I have started grilling them about their relationship statuses to assess my chances of becoming a grandmother. 

One day, I reckon I will have the sanctuary of calm I so desperately longed for only it won't feel much like a sanctuary at all. 

I will miss the chaos.

So thank you, PC Arthur Selby in your tiny police car, for being kind enough to trip me up and remind me of that. 

I would like to apologise to anybody who has clicked on this blog post hoping for something mathematical about deterministic dynamics or some clever commentary about the 'butterfly effect'. I'm afraid this post doesn't really explore Chaos Theory at all. 


  1. You're absolutely right - whenever I get fed up of the mess everywhere I question whether I'd really like it to all disappear and actually I wouldn't. We live in 'ultimate kaos' (remember them??) and I wouldn't have it any other way.

  2. I love this as it was only yesterday I found myself defending myself t my husbands family who think my house is a mess because I have toys on show and they should all be put away out of sight they think my dining room/playroom is not right and it should be just a dining room. I have 2 children and 2 step children yes I have alot of toys but it's their home aswell as mine and I love the chaos of family life

  3. I needed this tonight, after a standoff over tea with the threenager. She won. And breathe...

  4. Amazing, thank you. It's given me a much better outlook on the chaos. You're fantastic x

  5. 5am here in Australia, today is my 1 day my two are in pre-school and i am taking this post as permission to not tidy today. Hoorah!

  6. Lol, sounds rather tidy! I've given up trying to cross the playroom without stepping on something, if it doesn't go crack, its all good! Children are the bringers of chaos, you've just got to role with it or you'll go mad fighting against it.

  7. Two poorly children and a laundry basket deeper than Mary poppins bag have been hard on me this weekend. Thanks for reminding me it really doesn't matter if I'm not 'on top of it all' x

  8. You are so right! I remember the first morning I got up and there were no boys creating chaos in the kitchen, no 'can you iron my shirt', no hunting under the bed for plates and forks! No, I sat on the stairs and sobbed and wished for every toy and dirty football kit and fight and tantrum but instead I had a silent and tidy house and I didn't like it one bit! Boys create chaos but they also create mountains of cuddles and love!

  9. I agree but still wish my house wasn't such a sh*thole, but we're happy and enjoy ourselves, I'll tidy up tomorrow!
    and if that picture is showing how messy your house is - don't come and look at mine!

  10. I agree with all the above. That picture doesn't look that bad to me at all, as I remember similar events when mine were small. As my son is fast approaching teenager status I just sigh and wonder at the state of his bedroom, but at least it's more contained these days!

  11. Dear UnMumsy Mum.
    It has come to our notice that there have been several incidents occurring in your household which are bringing some concern to us. We sent PC SELBY to your establishment to investigate a complaint by a Mr JUDE of certain neglect and damage that had occurred in his presence. On arriving, PC SELBY's car was wilfully damaged by kicking and stamping, he reported Postman Pat being subject of an Actual Bodily Harm, and quite clearly noticed the lounge had been ransacked in an unreported burglary.

    We suspect an incendiary device was used in the toy cupboard with some remaining unspent illegally held ammunition in the form of Nerf Bullets scattered around the floor in the reach of minors. There is the serious issue of Dolly being discarded during blatant child neglect because our complainant got bored of feeding him.

    PC SELBY then tried to formulate a rescue plan for a Sylvanian rabbit from a witch but his efforts were thwarted by yourself refusing to activate his cleverly laid traps he'd laid out for you.

    I outline this to tell you, I have taken Tactical Firearms advice, your house is surrounded, and we want you to come out slowly with your hands clearly in view. (Careful of the trip hazard on your door step). As Operational Firearms Commander, I need to warn you that this behaviour cannot be tolerated and only pictures of perfect shiny kids eating perfectly balanced nutritional food can be permitted to leave the confines of the home in future.

    The electrician does not wish to press charges for Sexual Assault and has asked me whether you would like a follow up appointment.

    You have 5 minutes to comply before we force our way in.
    Regards PS 13908 TANGYE - Exeter Armed Response Unit

  12. That looks tidy comparing to our house! We have piles of laundry and toys lying everywhere. I am also ashamed to say that my kids have never learned what a bin is.. i am forever falling over things and breaking my back picking up after them. Love your blog.

  13. I also reached a similar conclusion a while ago. As much as I curse the state of our house, it's also what makes it *our* home. I can only imagine what it would be like if my wife wasn't ruthless and conducted regular clear-outs of toys, clothes etc that I would otherwise keep for sentimental reasons forever ...

  14. Just read this and you pretty much describe the state of our house too, we wouldnt change it for the world.

  15. Just started reading your blog after reading the unmumsy mumS. Think I needed this today. thank you. I look forward to future posts. X

  16. This made me cry. I needed this today. Thank you.*

  17. Reading this and you wonderful book has taken me back to when my girls were small. They are now in their 20's. And we are now grandparents to a 1 year old. After a few years of relative peace it all starts again. So enjoy them now then enjoy a break until the next generation come along. Even better as you can give them back when you've had enough ha ha!!

  18. Hi just finshed reading your book absolutely loved it I have done my bit as a parent had 4 children sadly my second child died at 8 months old with heart problems my eldest as I write this is in jail I beat myself up every day about where I may have gone wrong but know I gave them all everything I could have sadly I was not in a good relationship with there father which ended I did meet a wonderful man who I have been married to for nearly 20 year's he is my rock and has always supported me even if I was wrong my eldest has 3 children one of which me and my husband have an custody we are starting all over again we have had came to us when he was 5 day's old and as you can imagine at nearly 50 is bloody hard work but wouldn't change it for the world but like you say in your book I sometimes don't know if I can be everything he will has changed so much for me and hubby and yes I do cry and shout don't mean to think I forgot how hard it is to bring up a small toddler as I write this I feel bad even saying it's hard never thought I would be starting all over again at my age lol the love I feel for our little man is so overwhelming. I had a fall a couple of weeks ago and they found a mass on my lung so have had some tests and waiting to find out if it cancer this scares the shit of me and hope it's not as God only knows how me and husband will deal with that life can be so cruel sometimes. Our little man is so precious and I worry for my husband as he will have to be strong for me and my granson anyway sorry to waffle on your book was amazing and enjoyed every page so came and had a look for your blog not very good with computers lol glad I read it Audria

  19. That's his name - PC Selby! Only this evening was I forced to nee nor this police car along with Mrs Goggins in the back of it and for the life of me I couldn't remember his name. Thank goodness I'm not the only one to trip over the police car, but the train and van have a lot to answer to as well!!

  20. We, parents, should teach our kids to clean up after their activities, this will be a great contribuition to their parenting and development. And we need to cherish what we have at the moment not to regret about anything later. Thanks for this kind and inspiring writing!