Matthew, like his mother, has wonderful intentions. He is the most kind-hearted, well-intentioned young boy on the planet, without doubt. He is creative, philosophical in that distracted-professor kind of way, doesn't want his thoughts or speech interrupted...and wow is he messy. He is the primary reason (not to discount my own contributions, or those of my two other children and the two into-absolutely-everything dogs) why my house will likely never, ever be clean or tidy.
The following might describe a few hours in the life of my oldest child, who is twelve years old.
Matthew is almost constantly creating things or imagining things, and his natural inclination is to create a personal workspace in whatever room he happens to be in. For example, out of some giant box that he saved from something (maybe last year's new washing machine), he created a huge, art-box in which to work on certain art projects. In fact, the interior of the box itself is rather art-project-like. He created shelving in it that protrudes out of the box itself in order to conserve space inside; he created a window, complete with plastic sheeting that allows the light in but preserves privacy. He decorated the interior walls and has done all sorts of things in there that make it his personal and very private space. Then he hauls his art supplies in there (including paint at times...sigh), or his sewing machine and fabric, and generally lies on his belly to work. His legs protrude out the back end of the box, and so in order to preserve his preciously private work space (in the middle of our living area) he uses a huge blanket overtop the box to cover himself up so that all we see is a box with a lumpy blanket coming out the back end. He looks a little like an old fashioned photographer, when they covered themselves in order to take a picture.
Here is Matthew in his art project box; usually his legs are covered by the blanket, but the dogs were attacking his covered legs and he had to keep kicking the blanket away to prevent the dogs from tickling his legs. Note the floor mess around him, too...all his.
He'll maybe spend 30-45 minutes, or maybe 2 hours, lying in the box working on some masterpiece. Then he'll climb out, stretch, announce that we're not to go anywhere near his art box and then moves on to the library for the next project or shrieks at Seth to join him for a ten-minute trampoline break in the backyard.
I next see through the library doors that Matthew has dragged down from his bedroom all of his sketch books and pencil/eraser/sharpner supplies, as well as his ipod and blue-tooth speaker so that he can listen to his latest audio book while sketching his next cat/boar/goose/whatever. "Yes, mom, I'll clean it up when I'm done. Sure." A while later, eraser crumbles litter the floor, pencil shavings manage to find their way from the promised contained area onto the chair or carpet, and bits of crumpled paper from unhappy drawings surround his work area. This creativity session might end badly...with a foot-stomping rampage while Matthew bemoans the nose on his cat/boar/goose/whatever because it looks a little too thin or a little too fat or just plain wrong and now he has to start that drawing over.
A few recent sketches
When he tires of sketching ten or sixty minutes later (and he really, really, really can't clean it up yet because he's going to come back to it soon once he tries to figure out how to fix that dang cat/boar/goose/whatever nose, which still isn't right), he moves over to the dining room to maybe do some math homework with me and if I don't remind him to clean up the games and papers at the end of our work, they would lie there until the next time we do math homework.
And then it's breakfast or snack time and my philosophical, not-always-feet-planted-on-the-ground boy will invariably forget that he also needs to clean up his dishes and the table and help with dishwasher loading. "I'm coming mom...coming mom" happens at various intervals following a meal without an actual appearance of the boy in question so that it makes me just a little crazy, and I end up calling for him and then hunting him down to bring him back to help with the kitchen clean up when it would frankly be just so much easier to just do it myself.
Then it might be time to practice piano, which on some days might produce an agony of a reaction to be worked through and processed and belaboured, and which on other days might produce the necessary practice output followed by 30 minutes of his own compositions which must be played over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and...well you get the idea. He might then disappear into the wilderness somewhere if I didn't manage to catch him as he leaves the piano room to make sure that he cleans up his piano books, his teacher's notepad, and the various other things he's managed to dump on the floor in the time he's been there.
Because he has projects in the works on the inside of the house that cannot be cleaned up yet because they're in progress, Matthew then might do some out loud reading to me, and then (leaving the book where he drops it as well as the book mark which fell carelessly out of the book as he dropped it), move himself outside to work on his latest mud-brick project which, once in progress, needs to be left for a day or two to dry in the sun. Happy with this work, he then needs to come in to clean himself up from the mud, but forgets (despite my reminders) that he'd also let the dogs into his outdoor muddy area, and so the dogs and the boy come flying in through the patio door - happy as little clams and muddy on all 10 feet and three noses...mud which the dogs, of course, carry throughout the main floor before I can yell at them all to stop moving. And so I spent the next half hour cleaning Matthew, cleaning one dog then the other (with Matthew, who is ever so happy to do it but who would simply forget about it all unless I am right there to remind and help him), and then helping Matthew clean the floor of muddy paw prints - and he happily chatters away with me while forgetting to clean while he talks because his head is totally and completely elsewhere but he is ever so happy to clean up.
Then Matthew might be off to trampoline again - recently-clean clothes being tossed out of the trampoline because clothing is so constricting of his need to jump higher; and so his clothes land on the half-baked mud bricks or are snatched up and dragged off by the dogs. Matthew happily jumps with a sibling or two until he's ready to continue with the next project he dreams up. "Where are my clothes?" might readily be heard as he climbs off of the trampoline, and unless I remind him to clean up his second set of pants/shirt, he will simply forget about and abandon the clothes lying strewn across the yard and find another pair of pants upstairs and tell me that he's almost out of clothes and could we please do his laundry together.
The next project might be a continuation of one of yesterday's projects, or it might be to build a bike ramp or two (experimenting with various mediums and leaving the others discarded), or he might sit on the neighbour's side of the fence so that he can think for a while, and maybe chat with a neighbour, and then he might have another idea about the next fort he's going to build with the biggest tarp known to mankind and could we please go to Walmart or Canadian Tire to buy said tarp? And whether we do go or simply use the ones he already has, the tarp is likely pulled in this direction and that direction before being temporarily discarded, flapping on the ground and covering many square feet of grass but providing the dogs ample space to run their once-again-muddy paws all over it while Matthew thinks of an even better way to use the tarp in his fort-building endeavours.
And then it occurs to him that maybe he should draw a plan of the to-be fort with the tarp and so he abandons the backyard and runs for paper that needs to be taped to the kitchen floor because that's where the floor is the smoothest, and he works on his belly at drawing to-scale plans for the tarp-fort but forgets that the dogs are even more creative than he is and so they rip up his paper when he's almost done and, while Matthew is working out the trauma of that with me, those same dogs gleefully chase each other with paper shreds all over the house. And by the time the trauma has been dealt with and even-temperedness has returned, the paper shreds (now spread throughout both floors of the house) have been forgotten and Matthew is off to his next project - except "sure mom, I'll clean up the paper shreds...I just need to use the bathroom first" and then it's forgotten unless/until his mama pulls him away from the next project (another trauma) in order to clean up the paper shreds first.
It's exhausting to keep up with. And that's just one kid! And maybe by now it's noon.
My house truly will never be clean again.