Life Lessons from Cleaning Our Family Ball Pit

Ball Pit CleaningFun Fact: My bathtub (which is, I believe, a standard size bathtub) fits approximately 750 ball pit balls.

How do I know? I’m glad you asked.

I’m not a fan of public ball pits. Mostly  for hygiene reasons. But I cannot deny my children the joy of rolling around in a sea of brightly colored plastic balls – so LB and I made the decision to home-ballpit our kids. Our ball pit is actually a pack n play filled with 750 balls, tucked away in the corner of our playroom. But when I discovered ants (or at least one ant) amidst the balls, I knew it was time to take action.

So, in the monotony of scrubbing 750 plastic balls, I looked for a meaning. What can I learn here? What parallels can I draw to my every day life. Well, I thought of a few. Here goes:

  1. Excess. We have too much stuff. Too much physical stuff in our lives. Too much mental stuff in our heads.  Sure, 750 balls are fun. They are bright and shiny, and whenever people come over they are impressed by the sheer number of balls. But what are they hiding, deep down? Cheerios and Ants? Sure. But I also found my wedding ring in there, and taking the time to clear out the excess helped me find something that I had been looking for all along, and just didn’t know it. Actually, that’s not true. My wedding ring  wasn’t in the ball pit. It’s probably somewhere else. But, I did find cheerios and ants. And a few toy cars.
  2. Patience. And Perseverance. 750 balls is a lot. When LB asked how I would clean the balls, I told him – with a baby wipe. One at a time. If each ball took me 30 seconds to clean, and you add in bathroom breaks, meal breaks, and the fact that I have a baby and toddler making the task virtually impossible. It would take me 10,000 years to clean the ball pit. Three balls in, I realized I needed a new strategy. Luckily, I could dump all the balls in the bathtub and turn it into a fun afternoon activity for the kids – BUT what other tasks in our life require the patience to take one small step at a time and the perseverance to endure despite our setbacks. Weight loss? Learning a new skill? Counting loose change in an earthquake?
  3. Embrace the Chaos.  I am a control freak. I like order, and neatness. But there is no way to clean 750 balls without getting a little messy. And when you add a baby, a toddler, and water you are asking for trouble. Sure – it would be a lot “neater” if I had adopted my original strategy. But I would have murdered my children and ended up in a psych ward. I also would have missed out on a fun afternoon of creating a toddler dreamland in my own bathroom. So, how else am I slowly driving myself insane trying to maintain the illusion of control when life keeps getting in the way? And wouldn’t I have a lot more fun if I just went with the flow and made it fun instead?
  4. Don’t Judge. Trust me, as a parent there is nothing more humbling than finding cheerios and ants in your family ballpit. I mean, absolutely nothing. So instead of judging Chuck-E-Cheese for having pepperoni pizza and used band-aids in their ballpits, I should remember that my ball pit isn’t perfect either.
  5. Alcohol makes everything more bearable. I do not drink. I don’t enjoy alcohol, and find it has too many calories. But I’m sure if I did, this would have been the perfect occasion to have a glass of wine. Or a shot of tequila.

So there you have it. Life lessons from cleaning a ball pit. Even I’m impressed by my ability to turn that shit into a quasi-meaningful parallel of life. Or at least pass on a semi-effective ball pit cleaning strategy to another mom. So there you have it, Mamas – you are welcome!

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