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This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Photograph by Amy Wruble

We bought our first house recently. After years in a rental where we couldn’t nail a picture up without security deposit panic, we were excited to make our new place feel like home.

Our kids finally got a playroom, so we thought it would be fine to make our open plan living /dining area more of an adult space. A decorator friend helped me design everything from rugs to window treatments. I spent days creating a massive family photo wall that crawls up an entire flight of stairs. And we invested in some new furniture, including one major splurge: a custom-built bookshelf/cabinet unit, hand-painted in a warm gray tone that complemented our new couch.

Do you know where I'm going with this? If you’ve ever raised small children, then I think you do.

Our 2-year-old contributed to the decor by scrawling in black Sharpie all over the custom-built unit. Since she’s not very tall, she pulled a kitchen chair over to the shelves and worked her way up. (This all happened while I was in the bathroom, by the way.) When I got done crying, I asked Google for help and set about scrubbing the multiple marker stains with toothpaste and rubbing alcohol. It did not get rid of the Sharpie. It did, however, destroy the finish on the furniture.

While hopped up on sugar, the 7-year-old decided to see what would happen if she used juice boxes as water guns, shooting what seemed like gallons of fructose at the photos I so lovingly framed and hung by the stairs. I imagine she was using the faces for target practice. We are still finding and scraping juice off the glass.

During a game of hide-and-seek, the kids yanked the new curtains, complete with rod, clean off the wall. Our best DIY intentions have not resulted in re-stabilizing the curtains and there's now a very expensive appointment scheduled.

We are under siege and I’m afraid there is no winning this battle.

There was a stomach virus. Baking soda, vinegar and industrial strength carpet cleaner totally took care of the smell, but there's still a slight orange residue on the living rug that was not at all orange when we bought it.

These are just the most notable desecrations, the embarrassing things I feel like I have to explain to guests. Only my husband and I know the location of all the other rips and breaks and stains. Only I know that sometimes, at 2:00 a.m., I wander the house in my nightgown with a tiny can of white paint, trying in vain to cover all the fingerprints and crayon marks.

We are under siege and I’m afraid there is no winning this battle. They may outgrow the Sharpies stage, but it seems there will always be chocolate milk pooling between the couch legs, maple syrup on the light switches and snot flicked on the carpet.

Were we fools for trying to create a little adult entertaining oasis within a house that clearly belongs to its unruly child inhabitants? Were we stupid to spend money on new furniture and accessories with kids so young? Will we always be locked in a bitter cycle of damage and attempted repair, with copious yelling in between?

On second thought, please don’t answer that.

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