Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Now I can’t guarantee this will work, for work, but this much I do know. It will work better, for work, than the old previously-tried methods. Today I’m talking about getting the drudgery of housework done with a bit of positive help from the kids.

The thing that got me thinking about this is someone who is pretty special to me – my two and a half year old Grandson. Now Grandson is no different then your typical high-energy, curious little boy. If he finds a screwdriver, he will skid under the table and quietly take the screws out of the table legs during dinner. But when the table collapses, he will willingly and joyfully clean up the mess, pick up the broken dishes, and guaranteed, he will be the first to volunteer to put the screws back in the table. And in his own baby dialect, he will tell you about it with uninhibited glee for days to come.

Now I’ve raised kids. They never joyfully picked up their toys and tidied up their rooms when evening came, but Grandson does. He strings toys around as much as any toddler, but when he concludes his play, he tidies up. Pretty phenomenal, isn’t it? And furthermore, he is Mr. Independence when it comes to dressing himself or putting on his shoes. But this joy he seems to find in tidying up and dressing himself – that is something I had to study for some time before I realized what was at the root of it.

Now housework is a disgusting past-time. Moms get tired. Moms get overwhelmed. And Moms realize with sad resignation that picking-up and tidying-up is a bloody drudgery that adds a lot of extra burden to busy days. So we scream and nag, “Clean up that room”, and then eventually run out of patience and go and clean it ourselves. And how to we do this? We may not stomp our feet and slam doors, but we show our distress. We walk heavy, yell stuff like “I don’t know why you’ve got such a mess in here. I just cleaned this pigpen yesterday!” We huff, and sigh, and chuck stuff out into the hall, and make a whole lot of noise to raise the profile of how disgusted we are at having to do repetitive clean-ups. Even a toddler can see that this particular occupation is NOT fun. And this, my friends is where we err.

Now if you have young’uns, I don’t need to tell you what happens if you try to paint a picture, or sew, or do a bit of hobby-craft. If you don’t want too many helpers, you best do these things after the kids are all in bed. They become the most willing and adamant participants you will ever find. Why? Because they can sense the joy and pleasure you get out of your craft. No huffing, puffing, and whining going on when you are crafting. So of course you are immediately surrounded by willing participants.

So in studying the thing that causes my grandson to operate the way he does, I discovered that Son-in-Law is at the heart of the matter. SIL has made his kids think that he enjoys picking up and sorting toys. In fact he’s even got me half-believing it, but of course, I know it can’t be true. But I’ll tell you – he could easily win an Academy Award, hands down, for his performances of a good time, when he is doing drudge-work.

SIL does clean-up in a contrived but totally convincing way. With a big smile, a song, and cheery remarks that make the kids think it is his favorite ‘craft’. Watching him makes me finally aware why my kids made themselves so scarce when Hub was ever building or repairing fence. They disappeared into the woodwork as soon as Hub said anything about repairing fences. Starting with the initial hunt for a hammer and fencing staples, it was evident to the kids that Hub was having a bad time and it was only going to get worse. The kids may have not realized the necessity of having a sound fence when you have a couple of horses, but they did realize, prior to any involvement, that fixing the fence was not a good, pleasant, or fun occupation. In fact I used to tease Hub when the kids were too rambunctious, too loud, too annoying, “Go tell them, we need to fix the fence today.” Immediately the silence of a childless environment would descend on the house in a flash as the kids scooted into out-of-the-way places.

Thinking about these things made me realize that Hub knew this stuff all along, but he never thought about any global applications. My youngest kids were only a year apart and when they were little, they both wanted to be packed around in my arms 24-7. Hub used to say to me, “Pack them around, but in an uncomfortable position, and they will soon stop insisting on being held.” So that’s what todays’ idea is about. Making pleasant tasks seem unpleasant, and making unpleasant tasks great fun. It’s a grand way to make space for you to do your own thing without painful interruptions of your good time.

So stop it right now. Don’t be humming a happy little tune while you’re painting your nails or soaking in a luxurious bath. But you may sing, dance, or even whistle while you’re wiping up that 48-ounce jug of Kool-aid that is flooding your freshly mopped kitchen floor.

Like Dr. Phil says. “Let’s Do It!”


Anonymous Eleanor said...

Ah, so that was what I did wrong in the child rearing process. I tried everything else, but never thought of making work seem like fun. Sigh. Pity I can't go back and do it all over again! I figured out the concept of reverse psychology when dealing with the standard teenage issues. However, I missed the chance to avert the Pig Pen phenomenon that should have been nipped in the bud in childhood. That's Pig Pen, as in Charlie Brown's buddy. Rather than dust, trails of rubble seem to follow her and build up at an astonishing rate wherever she stops for a few minutes!! How many years until she moves out??? :)

9:20 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Hi Eleanor. I understand where you're coming from. I didn't do this thing right when my kids were younger either, that's why I wrote this post. No time, in the midst of pick-up, clean-up, and re-washing clothes that had never even been worn. But now they're grown up and gone so I have time to reflect on behalf of the poor moms who don't have time to scratch their forehead or reflect on these kind of ellusive solutions.

Yes, like earthquakes and tornadoes, most of our offspring during the child and adolescent years leave nothing but rubble and disorganized debris in their wake.

9:32 PM  

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