My niece and nephew stayed with me last weekend. Normally this would be a welcome occasion – and it was this time, too. But this time was also different, partly because we are still living in a rental where the main living space rivals my first college dorm room. Also because when you put my kids who are 5 and 3, and my sister’s kids who are 4 and 2 together, in one small room, during cold weather when you can’t play outside – it makes things interesting. That’s ages 5, 4, 3 and 2 together, in one room, with only two adults.

Just in case you needed to visualize this a bit.

These 3 girls and one boy each have enough energy to run a large building. That is – if their energy could be made into electricity. By the end of the 24 hour stay – the 4 children had managed to eat 12 mini chocolate donuts, 6 chocolate muffins, half of a crock-pot full of pasta, 2 apples, 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a box of graham crackers and 14 cups of milk. 

That’s a lot of fuel.

At one point during craft time – which really consisted of rummaging through boxes of old broken crayons, glitter tubes and construction paper – my 3 year old drew a vacuum cleaner.

Well, according to her it was a vacuum cleaner. It looked more like 10 circles with eyes – but I told her it was lovely anyway. Her sister and cousin drew a rainbow and a cat. But she chose a cleaning device. Which made me ponder, why would she choose a vacuum cleaner? 

Her mom doesn’t vacuum. If we’re being really honest – and we are, clearly – I have only vacuumed a handful of times since living in this rental. That’s almost a year’s time if you’re keeping track. In my defense the spot of carpet in this place isn’t very big.

Still – of all the things she could draw, why a vacuum?

It didn’t take long for my mind to wander to her daycare. She’s learned a lot in that place in her 3 years. So has her big sis. Vacuuming is one of them; how to fold clothes and go potty in the big girl potty are on that list as well. As I was reminiscing about all the things she has learned at daycare, I started to think of the others that have helped raise my girls. 

Their Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Preschool and Sunday School teachers, a handful of babysitters and friends all shaping their future. 

That’s a big deal. Did it really take 5 years for me to realize just how important all these people are in my life? In my kids’ lives? Without them, I couldn’t bring home a paycheck or fulfill a business dream. Without them, I would have to teach my kids math – which is never a good thing. Without them I wouldn’t be able to walk around my favorite department store with a cup of coffee and a moment of peace.

These people deserve more thanks than I give them. They say it takes a village to raise a child.

I’ve never been more sure of that one.

When my sister and her husband returned from their tiny vacation, they looked relaxed – which was a stark contrast from my appearance. Our rental smelled of dirty diapers and spilled milk. There were toys in every corner and crushed graham crackers in my carpet, which meant I had to get that vacuum out for the sixth time this year. 

My sis took one look at the place and said, “thanks,” but the thanks wasn’t necessary. Everyone needs a break. Everyone needs a moment of peace. I know this now, more than ever. 

I also know she’ll return the favor someday – which is what I kept telling myself as I cleaned chocolate donut out of my shoes. 

Leslie Means

Leslie is the founder and owner of Her View From She is also a former news anchor, published children’s book author, weekly columnist, and has several published short stories as well. She is married to a very patient man. Together they have three fantastic kids.  When she’s not sharing too much personal information online and in the newspaper – you’ll find Leslie somewhere in Nebraska hanging out with family and friends. There’s also a 75% chance at any given time, you’ll spot her in the aisles at Target.