This is my life. For real.
I had some further thoughts about modeling behavior, which I wrote about in my last post. I seem to be fairly confident that modeling good health and fitness habits will lead to my children growing up valuing their health and fitness, too. The reason I'm confident is because I've seen how the not-so-good modeling has already taken effect in their little lives. The poor modeling I speak of is with housekeeping, or lack there of. I do it, just so we don't live like slovenly pigs, but I always feel like I'm walking the line. I'm always close to being one laundry basket away from losing my floor. The dining room isn't a dining room, but a depository for everything that makes it out of the car (gym bags, sippy cups, towels, art work, it even hosted my husband's wet suit for a week). My philosophy about making beds? Don't. I'm all about time management and it seems silly to make something that you're only going to unmake in a matter of hours. I have taken the advice about spending time with your children over doing housework to heart. However, this backfires on me when I want them to keep the playroom clean, their rooms picked up, their bathroom free of big goobers of toothpaste. "It's too hard!" they lament. Yes, I agree, it's hard. "I don't like to clean up!" Yep, I don't like it, either. And I have taken this approach of empathy with them. We are all on the same I-hate-to-clean-up team and so at least we're in it together.
But I do strongly believe they're at an age where they need to learn to do this themselves (and, of course, I desperately need the help) and I also want them to grow up in a culture of responsibility, which includes cleaning up after themselves. To top it off, I wish they would do it as willingly as they do riding their bike or dropping on the floor for push ups. Telling them to clean up after themselves has had little impact. Mommy has to set a good example. I have to show and tell.
Training pal Pam has the sort of home that you could serve hors d'oeuvres straight from the floor. Perhaps, even the toilet seat. She manages to keep up with it. Doesn't dread it. Just does it. She is the sort of woman who can see a wet pull up in the middle of the floor and dispose of it rather than pretend it isn't there. She will wipe the peanut butter off the light switch instead of put it off for "when it's time to clean." She will sweep up the crumbs under the table instead of collecting them on the soles of her feet. And you know what else? Her children's rooms are always neat. I've never heard them once complain about picking up. There is nothing else to attribute that to except having a good role model.
I want to have a sparkling house like Pam's, in much the same way I've heard people say to me, "I wish I was as fit as you." My answer to that is the obvious: just exercise more. It never seemed that hard to me. But now, I realized my detesting the work of housekeeping is similar to how people who hate to exercise feel. It's hard to find the time when you just. don't. want. to. My little "aha" moment helped me understand this about the non-exercisers of the world, and even helped me approach cleaning up differently: Just do it. Make the effort to clean up more. (And then there are people like Pam who can be neat and fit at the same time...)
And so in the spirit of my newfound enlightenment, I decided I'd try to keep up with the house better. My new policies: only one basket of clothes allowed to go unfolded; beds made in the morning; kitchen cleared and cleaned after lunch and dinner (it's just too much to include breakfast, too, when breakfast turns into snack, which soon becomes lunch, I'd be doing nothing but wiping counters from 8 am to noon). The girls were all in on it too. We picked up our rooms together in the morning, they helped clear dishes from the table, and put away their laundry (their drawers are a disaster, but mine are too).
They each earned a dollar this week for being such good helpers. They are motivated by money because they want to buy new doll clothes. Although, this definitely makes for a more willing labor force, I saw greed at work while we were making chocolate rice krispy treats. Mc poured the marshmallows into the buttery pan and I handed her the spoon to stir it up. She looked up at me and asked, "Do I get money for this?"
I don't mind if I raise little entrepreneurs who grow up to be wealthy enough to hire housekeepers to do their bidding for them. It's not that I believe domestic work is the domain of women, either. I'd want to do the same if I were raising boys. I just know this is a weakness of mine and I don't want it to be a weakness of theirs. I don't want keeping their surroundings neat and orderly to be a challenge for them. If they see a dust bunny in the corner, I'd like them to pick it up and trash it. If they spill something I want them to take the initiative to grab a towel and soak it up. I really don't want them to be my little slaves (OK, OK, it's crossed my mind) I just want them to share in the responsibility of the home. We all live here, we all have to respect this space. (I feel I should note here that my husband isn't part of the problem. He's excellent at initiating a load of laundry, unloading the dishwasher--I HATE unloading the dishwasher--and cleans up after dinner. And thank goodness for me, right?) Respecting the space we live in is a value that will be important as they find a dorm mate in college or start a household of their own.
So yesterday after we all made our beds and picked up our rooms I kept the ball rolling by sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, wiping down counters, folding clothes. I was a woman possessed. And I was proud of my work. Then I saw JC, my three-year-old creeping toward the stairs. I knew that look. "Do you need to go potty?" I asked. "I already goed potty. I went pee pee on the flo." My clean flo. I tried not to let the futility take hold of me. Still, the thought came back as I sopped up the mess. And why do I bother?
"Mama!" I heard her little voice at the top of the stairs. "I really want to wear these panties." I came to check her out, waving her panties about her head. "OK," I said, "You can wear those." Her face wrinkled, "But they have poopy in them." She launched them to me over the stair rail. Yup, way beyond skid marks. And how long, I wondered, had they been in her drawer? Now I know, when I ask them to put their clothes away, I better be a little more specific. I considered rifling through her panty drawer in search of more skidders. I opted against it. I'd rather work out.