I really like to have a clean house.  This is challenging because I live with a toddler.  I never knew how much of a control freak I was until I involved my two and a half year old daughter in cleaning the bathroom.

Working with a toddler, my first lesson is that getting things clean becomes less important than keeping the walls dry.  Trying to keep her (and me) from slipping on the wet marble, visions of us both cracking our skulls haunt me.  But while she happily scrubs the walls with a terribly soppy sponge, she’s having fun while I freak out.  I try to keep it to myself, though.  I smile and encourage as much as I can.  Because: I want her to learn that we clean the house sometimes.  I want her to see that it’s not just a chore, that it’s fun.  And she wants to help.  I know that some day she will lose interest, so I try to savor the mess we’re making under the pretense of cleaning.

When I was in graduate school and working full time, I got used to watching my standards drop.  It was not comfortable at first, but then a simple equation developed: The floor didn’t always need to be clean AND I definitely needed to read, write, etc.  I’d clean when the semester was over.

Now, I have to decide how we live, I have to model things.  To show my daughter how we should take care of our home.  When I have the energy, I try to make tidying up the million pieces of Lego and the salad of doll clothing strewn on the floor (for the third time today) a game.  I announce that she is not allowed to put away the red pieces, but only the yellow ones.  (She stops what she’s doing and comes over.  “Can I put green ones away?” she asks.  “Well, I guess so,” I say, binning another piece, marveling that for one moment I am actually ahead of how her little mind works.)

Cleaning with a toddler is at least twice the work of cleaning alone.  For a long time I would only clean when she was sleeping or out of the house.  But, if I want her to learn that this stuff is important (at least while she’s not in graduate school) I’m learning the truth inside the cliche: the process is more important than the outcome.

And if it takes twice as long, at least the walls will be clean.

4 thoughts on “Control

  1. Too true! My younger son loves to do stuff in the kitchen with me (cook and wash dishes), help in the yard, spray things with his water bottle … basically a much tidier person than his brother. I wonder how much is just him, and how much is that he was the baby and always around when I was cleaning. His first recognizable gestures were wiping the top of his highchair tray and shaking his head “no” — I figured that’s all he saw me do all day!

  2. reminds me of “housework” Carol Channing from “Free to Be You and Me”— mostly the last part….make sure you do it together! :)

    You know, there are times when we happen to be
    Just sitting there, quietly watching TV,
    When the program we’re watching will stop for a while
    And suddenly someone appears with a smile,
    And starts to show us how terribly urgent
    It is to buy some brand of detergent,
    Or soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
    To help with the housework.

    Now, most of the time it’s a lady we see,
    Who’s doing the housework on TV.
    She’s cheerfully scouring a skillet or two,
    Or she’s polishing pots till they gleam like new,
    Or she’s scrubbing the tub or she’s mopping the floors,
    Or she’s wiping the stains from the walls and the doors,
    Or she’s washing the windows, the dishes, the clothes,
    Or waxing the furniture till it just glows,
    Or cleaning the fridge or the stove or the sink,
    With a light-hearted smile, and a friendly wink,
    And she’s doing her best to make us think
    The her soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
    Is the best kind of soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
    That there is in the whole wide world.
    And, maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t,
    And maybe it does what they say it will do,
    But I’ll tell you one thing I know is true.
    The lady we see when we’re watching TV,
    The lady who smiles as she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,
    Or whatever she does on our TV screens,
    That lady is smiling because she’s an actress,
    And she’s earning money for learning those speeches
    That mention those wonderful soaps and detergents and cleansers and cleaners and powders and pastes and waxes and bleaches.

    So, the very next time you happen to be
    Just sitting there quietly watching TV,
    And you see some nice lady who smiles
    As she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,
    Remember, nobody smiles doing housework but those ladies you see on TV.
    Your mommy hates housework,
    Your daddy hates housework,
    I hate housework too.
    And when you grow up, so will you.
    Because even if the soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach
    That you use is the very best one,
    Housework is just no fun.

    Children, when you have a house of your own,
    Make sure, when there’s house work to do,
    That you don’t have to do it alone.
    Little boys, little girls, when you’re big husbands and wives,
    If you want all the days of your lives
    To seem sunny as summer weather,
    Make sure, when there’s housework to do,
    That you do it together!

  3. meli65, yeah, it’s pretty unnerving when I see my reflection in my child. Today I watched an old movie (from about a year ago) of my daughter telling the cat, “Go, go!” trying to get him to move. Later, after my daughter tore open a (dry) teabag and emptied the contents on the floor, I was enlisting her help to clean it. Dante (the cat) was in the way. I said, “Go, go!” to him, then shivered, realizing that in the old movie, she was 100% mimicking me. Hard to be held accountable!

  4. Karen, thanks for the memory! I have that CD from the library now, I need to go listen to it!

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