Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Working With Kids Under Your Feet

I wonder why I fight working with my kids under my feet, and after thinking about it today I am going to stop it.

It is difficult. I sweep the kitchen floor, they mess up the pile. I mop the kitchen floor, they get it muddy. I vacuum the living room, they destroy the playroom. I spend most of my days cleaning, organizing, or sweeping. It stinks, but the alternative to a disastrous house is stinkier.
Not my house-way too neat to be here.

It is part of my life and my kids' daily routine, their mom keeping the house picked up. Aside from daily tidings, I also have the yucky bathrooms and laundry-type-ish-larger-projects. Outside, I clear out leaves from under the deck, scrape cobwebs, and sort the recycling. It is not glamorous, but unless you have hired help, you do it too.

Once upon a time, I thought that I needed to keep the kids away while I did these chores. Then the house got messier; as they got bigger, so did their messes. They stopped taking naps. I was going to have to clean into the night. I wanted to read to them during the day. Play board games. Anything but clean with them. It became inevitable that I would need to clean with my kids under my feet.

And that is ok because I can teach them while I sweep, just in different ways from the board games and books. Cleaning with my children under my feet teaches them:

1. Cleaning is real life. Real life is hard and you have to clean up the messes in it. The kids see me sweat when I sweep, and see me figure out how to get marker off the couch: problem-solving skills.

2. The kids help clean. I believe kids should have freedom from adult responsibilities, but they need to know how to clean up after themselves. Ty can pick up his cars and Za can pick up her plastic slinky collection. It's a balance thing.

3. My behavior is an example for my kids. This is a given with parenting, all of the time, but it really trickles down to small tasks like cleaning too. Getting frustrated with menial activities is a poor examples. Shipping them off to the couch when I want to vacuum a small spot, another poor example. Working together - someone getting the dustpan while another wipes the table? Ahhh, teachable mommy moment.

Cleaning and scrubbing the house is an everyday part of life, and I am now going to do it with my children under my feet.

Photo Credit

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Broken Truck

Toys crowd every living space of my house, garage, and even car. My two children’s birthdays are within four days of each other and after one month of Christmas. All of the grandparents are divorced, so that means we have five celebrations for all three events, complete with aunts, uncles, cousins, and great-grandparents. Don’t worry about the math; all those parties add up to way too many toys.

My husband and I take preventive measures against this tidal wave of toys. We donate. We trash broken toys. We move them to the garage for outside toys and then they become trash. Lots and lots of toys out the door.

As my children get older, not all toys make it out the door. For instance, a wonderful friend of mine gave my son Ty a monster truck for Christmas. He broke a wheel off immediately, really within his first play session with it. My husband and I tried fixing it (and couldn’t) and threw it away (and Ty picked it out of the garbage).

I then considered my options:

1. Call my friend and get the receipt, or at least the store’s name. Then dig the packaging out of the recycling, tape the box back together, and situate the truck in what was sure to be a poorly reconstructed box. Then take it back for an exchange and haggle with store clerks while holding two kids who are super excited to be in a toy store and super tired of standing in line.

2. Dig the box out of the recycling, find out the brand name, and call/email them. Play phone/email tag.

3. Write a blog post about junky toys that break within five minutes of your kids playing with them, with a link back to the manufacture’s website. Tweet furiously.

Options one and two seem frustrating and I am really too nice for option three.

So now we have this broken monster truck that Ty is attached to and no real plan, except for our last option:

4. Sneak it out of the house and into the garbage when he is asleep.

We really wanted the monster truck out of the house. The kids have too many toys and they certainly don’t need a broken one. Monster trucks alone? Ty probably has a dozen of varying sizes. When he lines them up for them to enter the living room, or the racing arena, they stretch for two feet. He does not need this monster truck, so we worked to find another option.

We never found a suitable option, and as the months have passed since Christmas, I am glad. Out of all of his toys, he uses this broken monster truck with a flood of creativity.

The broken monster truck always has a different situation as to why it was hurt in the monster race. Sometimes the driver wrecked and other times a different truck’s driver was driving carelessly. One time, a police car had to stop the competition for his bulldozers and tractors to enter the arena and tow the three-wheeled truck to safety. Another time, he pulled our king sized bed’s brown comforter to the living room and made it a mud pit where the truck had a wreck, and yes, lost its wheel. 

Ty has too many toys, toys that are meant to build creativity and wonder. Teach colors and shapes. Form him into a future leader and possibly president. Yet he uses this broken monster truck to stretch his imagination.

Out of all the toys I stress over tossing or donating, I gave the least worry to the one with perhaps the most potential.

Photo Credit