“Miss Jennifer, can we clean your kitchen?” That’s what Catherine (one of my little friends) asked me Tuesday afternoon.
“You guys are so sweet, ” I said with a smile. “But no. No thanks.”
I’d let them play around at it a couple times before, but they were talking about a serious cleaning session here. Obviously, I couldn’t let nine- and ten-year-olds really clean my kitchen. There is a certain way the dishwasher needs to be loaded in order for the cups and plastic bowls not to turn upside down (not to mention the risk that they’d put a “top rack only” item on the bottom rack!), they’d probably put the broom back in the wrong place, they might use too much of my expensive cleaning products, they’d probably put clutter from the counter into the wrong drawers — nope, the whole idea was too fraught with danger. Not that I was planning to clean it any time soon (unfortunately my lazy streak is stronger than my borderline obsessive-compulsive streak), but there’s no way the girls could do it.
Then I remembered that I had recently challenged myself to look for ways that I could accept help — even imperfect help — from others, and that I’d also come to believe that perhaps this whole situation with the girls was not just about me helping them, but about them giving me some desperately needed help as well.
So I let them do it. I even let go of the urge to nitpick and supervise, and just took the opportunity to have some time to myself since it was my children’s naptime. Two hours later, it looked like a cleaning service had been here. The kitchen and adjoining living room glistened — it even smelled clean.
After the girls left, however, I began to notice all the imperfections. Indeed, I couldn’t find the broom. It did look like they’d gone through much more Windex than I would have. They’d accidentally used one of the baby’s monogrammed burp cloths as a cleaning rag. And then I just about gasped when I saw: they had run the dishwasher. Without asking. Without having me inspect the way the items were arranged. I hesitantly approached it, slowly opening the door for fear of what I might find. When I pulled out the racks, I saw (sensitive readers may want to prepare themselves for what I’m about to describe):
Two sippy cups sat overturned and filled with filthy water, three “top rack only” plastic bowls were on the bottom rack, the silverware had been put in upside down, and a pot had not been properly pre-rinsed.
I braced myself for the earth to stop spinning, but it didn’t. Interestingly, the universe didn’t degenerate into chaos because my dishwasher was run after improper loading. In fact, the only thing that came of it was that I had to spend about thirty seconds re-rinsing the sippy cups and scrubbing a couple spots on the pot. Two of the $0.55 plastic bowls were a bit warped, but they were still usable.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: everything that I’d worried might happen, happened. The cleaning job was rife with “mistakes.” I didn’t control everything, and therefore it wasn’t done my way. And ya know what? (Yes, this is actually shocking to people like me)…It didn’t matter. At all. The girls’ generous act gave them something to do on a summer afternoon, they felt great from all the praise I showered on them, and I was saved tons of precious time and energy by all their hard work. The situation resulted in abundant blessings all around, and all it cost was a little “imperfection.”
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