For posterity, here is how it's done:
1) stuff a plastic knight down the bathroom sink and then leave the water running while you play outside, thus flooding the entire house with 4 inches of water. (make sure you remember to leave your mother's laptop on the floor).
2) eat a huge meal and then bounce around insanely until you projectile vomit, such that you manage to spew all over both mattresses, the carpet, the chair, the walls, and your baby brother.
3) "accidentally" spill an entire glass of milk into the wardrobe, ensuring that all your mother's clean clothes get saturated.
4) cut a pile of magazines into confetti and strew around liberally.
5) pull every book from the shelves in an attempt to find the one you want, then trip over the pile of books and knock over the table that your mom has just set for dinner.
and so on.
I've learned some things this weekend. Primarily, that comfortable living in small spaces is predicated on keeping things in their place and picking up after yourself immediately. NOT skills that the under-5 set is particularly known for. It can get pretty ugly, pretty fast. Especially since I was too sick to do much more this weekend than shriek at my kids, banshee-like, from a prone position. Not pleasant.
But, the good news is that there are lots of children in this neighborhood. My five-year-old engineered himself a playdate by climbing up the ladder in the backyard and throwing lemons at the kids whose yard adjoins ours. After some shouting back and forth about how old their respective mothers were and what level of belt each had reached in karate, they decided to meet. I walked him over, met the parents, and watched my grouchy little monster tranform into a happy kid. Here's the thing, though: I can be totally happy in my tiny nest, but when it comes to introducing it to others, I quail a bit. I know that this playdate will lead to others, and eventually, naturally, the playdate will happen at my house. And then I will have some explaining to do.
And these people live in the house you dreamed about as a child. Huge yard with a treehouse, big room for each child with nice beds you don't have to fold up every morning--with real sheets and everything!--big chests filled with toys, all nicely organized, walls filled with children's artwork and an entire room downstairs for dress-up and messy games. The kind of house that makes me start to wonder where my life went wrong.
But I never wanted that kind of life, right? I wanted to be wilder, freer, wander the world and not get stuck with a mortgage and car payments on two (yes, TWO, can you believe it?) Priuses, wanted to teach my children that material things can be useful, but are not all that important. So it's all right. If my son's new friends ask him why his house is so small, it will be interesting to hear his response. And if they ask me? I'll say: we like it this way. Because that's the truth. Sometimes.