We were getting ready to go on a trip and I like the house to be tidy for two reasons. 1. I feel better 2. We don’t leave something behind and learn about it 100 mile into the trip when Fiona decides to have a tantrum about where her sequin flip bracelet has gone.
So one area that I try to leave alone is the kids playroom. We attempt to clean it once a week so that we can dust/vacuum but basically it’s how they want to keep it. They love when there is wide open space to run around in so that is something that I have tried to use to coerce them in cleaning by explaining that they’ll have a fun, open room. They love to make things out of recycled boxes etc. The room was overtaken by all of this stuff so we went to the container store one day and organized the heck out of the room. It is not perfect and some days isn’t even photo worthy but what I like about what we did is that is it functional. We are able to clean up and make it look organized but still fun and lived in very quickly now that we organized it. I knew that we were going to have a fight on our hands. Fiona hates to clean and refuses to do much but she is 4 so I take what I can get.
Zoe will help, but often reluctantly and her arms always get really long, her back slumps over and I think she loses any skeletal system that she once had. She just is made of jell-o and sort of slinks over to the area to clean. I have tried numerous things to get them to clean up that never worked, but I knew that we needed to clean up before we were headed out for our vacation. I had been reading a book by Dr Shefali Tsabary called Out of Control. It talks about not disciplining children. What she means by that is that you don’t assign odd punishments for random infractions. For example, if your child didn’t clean their room, then don’t take away their playtime days later. She talks about allowing children to have emotions, opinions etc and not imposing our rules which are made up anyway. Instead, put ourselves in the shoes of the children. Why are they crying- are they hungry? Etc So it was playroom cleaning and I thought “Hmm how would I have wanted to clean when I was a kid?”
So I thought about a game. Now normally, my games end with a reward, but I thought what makes the journey fun. What makes the work fun. So I hid post-it notes under a pile of toys or blocks. The rules of the game were that they needed to start to clean. Once they found a post-it note, they needed to continue to clean up the area that was attached to that sticky note. I would guide them. For example, if they found a sticky note under a pile of blocks, they needed to clean the entire pile of blocks. Once finished they got to eat a gummy bear. I was the inspector and helper as well. So we were all working together but they were doing a lot of the work of cleaning up their own mess. When we got back from vacation, the mess crept back in. We weren’t even back for 5 days and the playroom was once again a disaster. I told them that we needed to clean it again. They jumped up and I wasn’t even able to finish my tea before we had to go and start cleaning because they wanted their candy treat. This particular time was even more exciting because they had gotten a variety box of candy and were excited to get to pick out whatever piece they chose once they cleaned their spot. They even shared with each other and were in a good mood after the project.
Working from home with kids is a balancing act that sometimes involves allowing a kid to use an entire roll of tape in order to get something done. I also like to be very efficient with my time. I’ll open my laptop in the kitchen while I’m waiting for the water to heat up, to throw in noodles. I felt particularly ingenious yesterday when I decided that I was going to combine kiddie pool time with bath time. They hate to get a bath because it signifies the end of the day. We take a bath, settle down for a little show on tv or some playing before dinner and then it’s off to bed. There is always moaning and groaning. Yelling that I got soap and water in their eyes when I repeated 5 times at increasing volume to look up.
So yesterday, I just decided to combine fun with not so fun. We all had our bathing suits on and got in the kiddie pool. After splashing and spraying the water shooter over the roof of the garage, we got out the shampoo and conditioner, used the suds to wash the rest of their body. Voila! Pool time became bath time. I saved A LOT of time! They had fun! I had fun! The doorbell rang, I ran into the house as the UPS man was ringing the doorbell. I ran down the hall waving, bouncing along like Pamela Anderson (well that’s the picture I have in my head at least). The UPS man has a hilarious story I’m sure of that that he can repeat to his friends at a summer picnic (you’re welcome.) The UPS man himself is the epitome of efficiency. He beeps the horn like a friendly three beep beep beep, walks up to the door but I already heard the beeps, so I’m waiting, delivers the package or waves nicely and gets back into the truck. But his friendliness doesn’t end there. He beep beep beeps as he leaves. Except on my Pamela day, he saw me coming, quickly put the package down and didn’t wave or look back and there were no extra beeps. He must have been in a hurry. I’m sure my bathing suit running was not at all embarrassing to him. Although today, he gave me an extra long wave ;). So there you have it. You never know when you can turn something fun into a way to make your life more efficient and entertain your friendly delivery person at the same time.