“Crissi!” the neighbor kid called from downstairs.
“Yeah?” I asked, immersed in my work on the computer.
“Today’s Monday, the night I spend the night!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, it is,” I said.
“But my cousin is spending the night too,” he said.
“Oh, that’s too bad –“ I started, assuming he meant over at his house.
“So we can probably fit a third sleeping bag over there,” he said, pointing to a spot on the kids’ cleaned bedroom floor.
“Um, ok…” I said.
“So now you’ll have three boys spending the night!” he said happily before bounding down the stairs.
I think I got swindled.
The rule I made for my son was that the house had to be cleaned if he wanted his new best friend (and now his cousin, sigh) to spend the night. He put his clothes away, and reluctantly (meaning he was already crying) went in the bedroom to clean it up. His sister went downstairs and he threw a fit because he thought she was going to start playing his video games. But all she was doing was getting her clothes. Then, in the bedroom, there was more fighting. She wanted it done a certain way. He wanted to just throw everything in random boxes so that the middle of the room was cleared. He came out in tears because he couldn’t work with that kind of pressure. I told him that it would be easier if he just followed her direction because I didn’t want everything thrown in random boxes either. She finally left the room and started cleaning the bathroom instead, followed by the dining room. And he succeeded in making the room look clean on his own AND throwing everything in random boxes.
And my house is almost completely clean, and I didn’t have to do anything.
“I can’t wait till my toddler can clean,” my friend emailed me today, adding that her toddler did clear off the sink before my friend wiped it down.
As busy moms, it seems at times (in my case, ALL the time) that there is too much to do to finish up in one afternoon. As soon as one room is clean and you’re onto the next, the precious angels are soaking up the novelty of a clean room, and messing it up in the process. The work is never done, especially if you are the only one doing it.
This is where bringing the kids in is incredibly valuable. At 11 and 8, my kids are capable of a lot more than they used to be able to do. My son helps me take out the garbage, can sort laundry, and can sweep the kitchen floor. My daughter can fold laundry, fill up the dishwasher, and make sense of random messes by making logical piles for me to sort through. And it all saves time for me when I have to get down and dirty into the housework. Even a toddler clearing off a bathroom counter one piece at a time is much like having a prep cook in a kitchen: it paves the way for the bigger job we have to do by chipping away at the menial tasks.
So don’t be afraid to get your kids to help you out…..even if they cry. Truth is, eventually they’ll learn, like my daughter, that it’s just best to clean without arguing and get it done quickly, and that crying about it just slows the process down. Not only that, eventually it helps them to take pride in the house and keep it clean for a longer period of time. I’ll let you know when that happens.
Alright, off to prepare for a sleepover with three boys…..
(As a girl, I have always called overnight parties “slumber parties”. I recently got my hand kindly slapped by a dad when I referred to my son’s overnight that way. For any moms that are confused like I was, “slumber parties” are for girls, “sleepovers” are for boys. Now you know.)