Sorry, but it's not cute that your kid trashes your house

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

One of my old school friends has been posting a series of photos to Facebook of her youngest, a delightfully chubby baby, exploring the kitchen cupboards and tipping baking soda, bi-carb soda, whatever-he-may-find-soda, onto the kitchen floor. 

These posts have been getting a lot of likes and the comments are of the general tone: 'Oooh, look at that gorgeous boy! He's never been happier!' with rows of laughing emojis for emphasis. 

To be frank, it pisses me off. 

At our house (gutted and renovated by my tradie husband) this sort of behaviour would get short shrift. When my son Ned's friends come round, they are trained to remove their shoes at the door, to eat at the table, and to wash their hands afterwards.

If they want to run, get muddy, har-oooo to the wolves, smash something, hammer something, throw something, bang something, jump on something, well, they do that in the backyard. If they want to vroom-vroom-vroom the Hot Wheels, they do that on the deck, and not on the newly polished floors. If they want to climb and swing upside down, they do that in the trees, and not on the curtains, or the bunk bed.

Inside, they can draw, or Lego, or have secret conversations in the den they make on the top bunk. 

This set of rules has made entertaining a challenge. While it's okay to stiffly ask a play-date to refrain from using the walls as a sling-shot to propel them ever faster (leaving streaks of black hand-prints in their wake) it's harder to do it when mum and dad are there, seemingly oblivious. 

Talking to my mum's friend, a woman in her mid-60s, she advised that having a few rules was a no-brainer. It would mean that Ned would be welcomed into other homes for playdates, while the kid that insisted on using the windows as a drumkit may not. Further, it was fine to have differing expectations in our home to those of the playmate's home. 

When Ned was around one, I stood flabbergasted at a picnic as another member of my mother's group laughingly informing us that, having just had their house re-painted and their floors re-polished, it had quickly gone to shit now that young Alfie* was learning to ride his bike inside the house. 


This isn't a new, extreme form of bubble-wrap parenting by the way. It's just a by-product of crappy mountains weather, and the fact that young children must move. A fact we've overcome by utilising the indoor pool regularly and buying suitable wet weather gear.

My husband and I laughed nervously but afterwards we shared our horror in hushed tones.

To waste the expense of renos under the phoney mandate - let the children play – did not sit well with us. Not after slogging it out in our middle-income jobs to pay for our own renovations. 

So I'm wondering if this is part of class division; if more 'relaxed' parenting means more money in the bank. Our friends with the bi-carb baby are far wealthier than us, and most of the other local families who have relinquished their homes to their children are Sydney tree-changers. 

Perhaps it's also a result of having multiple children who are close in age. According to my audit, the trashing of the home seems most common among those families with three or more children. Often, the oblivious parent is also zombie-like from a) lack of sleep and b) the general tedium that is raising young children.

In that case, I'm all for more government-sponsored childcare so that Mum/Dad can put their feet up, have a nap, recover, and then re-engage. 

And then there's also the delusional thinking that boys can't help being this way: rampaging through inside spaces like the Incredible Hulk. To which I say: bulls**t! There are the realities of testosterone and then there are the myths.

Today's little boys aren't Tarzan, swinging through the trees, uncomfortable when asked to replace their leopard-print thong with shorts and to find a seat. Like all children (yes, girls included) it's recommended that they have three hours active play a day, but this doesn't mean you must surrender your home. 

And another thing (the last thing I promise): It's okay to say no. Try it – it's liberating and can lead you to play with dictatorship tendencies for a while.

No – you can't empty the kitchen cupboards onto the floor. No – you can't play 'war' inside. No - you can't crash tackle on the lounge and follow it up with a homemade World Wide Wrestling comp. Yes, you can open the backdoor and go wreak havoc out there. 

But often I feel like the only one of my generation with these beliefs.

It's as though all the other parents are JK Rowlings' Weasleys, living in ramshackle topsy-turviness, bursting with life and love. While I'm Aunt Petunia, pursed-lipped and rubber-gloved.