Sunday, November 01, 2009

Playing house

Although I've stopped counting the nicks and scratches on our hardwood floor, I still notice where the paint on the walls we so painstakingly repainted four years ago is marked up or rubbed away. My futon, a leftover from college days, has a cover so stained with baby drool and chocolate that repeated washings no longer seem to make a difference.

Most of our furniture is Ikea vintage 1998: a good year, I must say, and sturdy enough to take quite a lot of abuse. One of the "good" pieces, my beloved coffee table chest from Crate and Barrel, has the corners taped over with adhesive foam. I'm not entirely sure if, when, or how I'll ever remove it.

My brother- and sister-in-law have a new apartment in Paris, tastefully decorated with modern furniture, some of it quite expensive, all of it carefully selected. They have custom curtains and upholstered dining room chairs; I have curtains that I recently noticed were filthy from hanging in front of the sliding door, and dining room chairs I clean with a scrub sponge.

They also do not have kids, although as far as I know they are planning to some day.

"Isn't it silly that [my in-laws] bought such nice furniture before having kids?" I asked my husband today, after completing my weekly vacuuming of the apartment (and finding myself in the accompanying weekly bad mood).

"Uh-huh," my husband said without looking up from his book, knowing where I was headed.

"I'm glad our furniture is not fancy." Then I abandoned my falsely positive tone. "By not fancy, I mean old. And beat-up. And crappy. You know?"


"Aren't you glad? It's so much easier than having nice stuff, really, when you have kids."

"Our stuff is great."

"Find me something that isn't old, crappy, or beat up."

"Nothing is old, crappy, or beat-up."

"Yes it is. All of it."

"Well, then, I like it because it is old, crappy, and beat-up."

These conversations are useless, I admit it. I grew up in a house that had beautiful furniture, so part of me feels that now that I'm an adult, if my furniture isn't nice too, I'm a fraud. Silly, no? That aside, is it that strange to dream of a nicer home, with inviting bedrooms with mountains of perfectly-pressed pillows (instead of my mountains of laundry to fold) and a living room with an empty coffee table and an overstuffed couch (instead of my futon and the baskets of toys on my floor)? I dream Pottery Barn in an Ikea-in-a-shoebox reality.

Another part of me is happy, however, that unlike my parents, I don't have to constantly worry about protecting a bunch of valuable, fragile objects within the Toddler Destruction Zone. Le Petit can play soccer in the hallway or ride his red car into the dining room table and it doesn't phase me at all. Living in a museum never made me too happy as a child, and I certainly don't have the energy for it as a parent.

I just need to own the choice. And be a little less obnoxious about it, especially after vacuuming.


Cloud said...

Or you could be like us and buy expensive furniture that looks like it will hold up well to the toddler abuse.

My taste and Hubby's taste intersects at "expensive Scandinavian and/or modern". So shopping for furniture is tough, particularly now that we have to think about what works with kids.

We do, however, still have the futon I bought after I finished grad school. It is in the guest room/office. We also have a lot of Ikea bookcases and a few other Ikea things, including some really nice wardrobes we bought to make up for the mismatch between our 1950s closets and modern (i.e., voluminous) clothes.

caramama said...

I used to decorate. I used to buy things for the house. Pretty things. Even some expensive things. I used to collect china that I would display and our dining room and front room we called a "parlor."

Now? The china is packed up in boxes in the basement. The dining room has nothing displayed. The parlor has a boxes of books, a stack of pre-school artwork and strollers in it. There are no curtains up over the blinds at the windows. There are toys and cabinets for games and baskets for board books and blind cords in bunches above the toddler reach.

It's so much easier to put away the pretty things at this point. And we no longer have money for household things because we spend any money we have on children things. And for now, I'm learning to be okay with that.

I will decorate and have a pretty house and non-beat-up furniture again someday...

Farrah said...

Leather everything until the children leave and then purchase what you enjoy. That's what my parents did and my husband and I have carried on that same tradition.