The girls go back to kindergarten and nursery tomorrow, and I go back to work, so it feels like the holidays are well and truly over. And there's nothing to bring you down with a mid-winter bump like a spot of cleaning. Yesterday was the turn of my own home - I took down the Christmas tree, tidied shelves and cleaned out the fridge. Today I turned my attentions to Imogen's nursery classroom.
As part of our non-financial commitment to the girls' education, we (along with each family in the class) take a turn cleaning our children's classrooms. Imogen's class is very small - only eight children - so this was the second time this term I had responsibility for cleaning it. And being the holiday clean, I had to go in twice - once at the beginning of the Christmas break and again at the end to freshen up. Not really how I would choose to begin and end my holidays, but that's just the way this cookie crumbled.
With each new baby, I have had to learn to let go a little more. Once, laundry came straight off the line or out of the dryer to be ironed and folded immediately and put away. Once, the kitchen floor got swept twice a day - whether it needed it or not. Once, the kettle and toaster were rubbed to a shine every week. Now, three babies in three and a half years later, I consider it an accomplishment if we don't wear all the clothes in the washing basket before I get around to folding them! Nowadays I'm just happy if the food the baby is eating off the floor is from today rather than yesterday. (Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but you get what I'm saying.)
But oddly, when I step into my daughters' classrooms to begin the weekly clean, something comes over me. I am filled with a calmness and begin to approach each task with love and care. The Steiner classroom is well known for invoking a sense of reverence in every person who steps over the threshold. It's a gentle space. One instinctively lowers the volume of his or her voice, and slows his or her movements to a gentler pace. I know that when my girls are in these rooms with their teachers and the other little children, they are embraced in a loving, homelike environment. And I feel inspired to contribute to the love held within the walls of these rooms by caring for the room and its objects.
Today, as I moved round that room polishing, brushing, wiping and sweeping, I thought of this article about cleaning I read recently. Linda Thomas writes, "...if you are not able to do what you love, you should try to love what you do." In my daily life, I often choose to forgo some of the more menial tasks in my home in order to spend more time doing things that I love - playing with the children, catching up with old friends on Facebook or knitting, for instance - but housework remains an inescapable necessity in any home. So tonight, as I tidied downstairs after the kids were asleep, I vowed to bestow the same love and care on these chores in my own home that I had in the classroom earlier today. Because surely if I approach my daily chores with a happy heart, the walls and the objects within will reflect love and warmth back onto my family.