Thursday, April 21, 2016

Clean up, Clean up, Everybody Everywhere

Keeping my sons' room tidy. It is a part of motherhood I find absolutely excruciating. It doesn't seem like it should be that big of a deal, but it looms over me like a bunch of dementors sucking the life out of me. No matter how many times I reorganize and put things away it ends up looking like a tornado hit it.

Right now, I just...
ignore it because I can't handle it anymore. I use tunnel vision when I go to put away clothes or tuck my boys in at night.  I use my foot to brush the Legos against the wall so no one will step on them and kick a few things under the bed so no one will trip when they get out of the bed in the middle of the night.  It takes me all of 5 seconds and I am done. This technique works well for me, but does nothing to address the larger disaster which is the rest of the room.

I know that we are supposed to teach our kids to clean up their own toys. I know this and started out in ernest. My boys joyously and enthusiastically put away preschool toys as they sang the ubiquitous "Clean Up" song we learned in our "Mommy and Me" classes.

"Clean up, clean up... everybody everywhere.  Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share."

I learned all the tricks.

Let's make it a game! How many cars can you put away in 1 minute? 

It's a race. You clean up the Magnetiles and I will do the blocks.  

Do you have any idea how much mental and physical energy this requires? I just couldn't keep it up. Somewhere between "Mommy and Me" and the third grade, I dropped the ball. I ask my two boys to pick up their toys and when they whine and complain to me, I just wind up doing a lot of it myself. I don't stick to my guns and now they don't take responsibility for cleaning up their own toys. I know this.

I think my lack of firmness comes from not wanting to be a screamer like my mom. A "Rage-a-holic", you might even call her. Growing up, she would scream at me out of the blue and unnecessarily to clean up our toys. It was TER-I-FY-ING. She would scream at me for making small mistakes like dripping rubber cement on a poster for a school project (which peeled off easily without leaving a mark on the poster, I will have you know). I remember how frightened I was of her and how awful I felt about being yelled at, particularly around cleaning up toys. So now, when my kids complain and give me a hard time about cleaning up, it becomes this ugly confrontation. Maybe that is why I find it so hard to stay firm. Maybe it triggers difficult feelings from my own childhood, which cause me to retreat and thus not follow through.

I think it's safe to say clean up time is a emotionally charged time for me.  It's a time when I must be mindful of my children's feelings, but also my own.





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