Saturday, December 24, 2011

Getting the Grease Out

Cleaning up.  Two hateful words.

As in I hate when the house is ready to crawl away from itself and "cleaning up" is the only way to save the situation.  And the kids hate when I lay down the law and involve them in the effort.

I've tried to keep my dislike of it all to myself.  You know, to set a good example for the wee ones.  But somehow, like me, they long ago adopted this same aversion.  Unfortunately, unlike me, they're more than happy to complain long and loud about it.

Cara: "Ryan, stop staring into space and dust already!"

Ryan: "Cara, stop being a security camera looking at me!  What are YOU doing?!"

Cara: "I'M straightening up!"

Ryan: "Yeah, well it's all YOUR crap YOU leave all over the place anyway!"

Cara: "Dirty tissues don't belong to ME!  God!"

Ryan: "Love ya!"

I left out the swearing, personal insults and gender hate that also seems to come naturally to them.

I know it would be somewhat easier to hire a cleaning service.  Trust me, Mike and I had one before kids.  It was great.  We'd straighten up for 10 minutes the day she was due to arrive.  And the house would look pretty much the same until the next time she came.

But once the diapers, wipes, baby toys, baby blankets, Barbies, Tonkas, Fischer-Price, Bratz Dolls, Silly Bandz, Nerf Guns and 40,000 slips of paper from their respective schools came along... it seemed kind of a waste to spend half a day picking up before a cleaning woman came, only to have the place look like somebody detonated a garbage bomb two hours later.
Mushroom cloud formation from the garbage explosion (1204-175 / cans in prog2a © Mike Agliolo)
I've tried to get the kids to be more organized.  I've tried to enforce rules like, "Hang up your coat," "Don't leave your shoes in the middle of the floor," "Do put your plates in the dishwasher," "Don't leave a half-eaten ice pop that you stuck in a cup on the coffee table for three hours," "Do use a napkin when you eat frozen blueberries with your hands while watching TV because the carpet actually is NOT a napkin."

Of course, there are many more do's and don'ts that I dish out on an hourly basis, but you all have lives....

What really gets me is when my alleged "friends" on Facebook post that their pre-tweens cleaned all kinds of stuff "without even being asked."  Good.  Open a kid cleaning school.  I'll enroll my two tomorrow.

Before anybody starts sending me ideas on how to get my kids to happily, or unhappily for all I care, pitch in, I've tried it all.

--Praise.   I've used this when they've helped without my asking.  Such as, "It's so great when you clean your dirty tissues off the dining room table.  It's helpful things like that that make me happy and less revolted as I go about my day."

--Chore money.  I've paid up.  Ohhhh, I've paid.  Dearly.  But even when I've paid the money, the kids eventually decide no amount of money is worth doing chores, even though they're risking a total wigging out rant.  (See next item).

--Rants.  These aren't fun for anyone.  Particularly my neighbors.  These tirades can last anywhere from two minutes to two angry hours, depending on my energy level and the amount of back talking and ratting out Cara and Ryan pile on.

--Chore sheets.  My sister successfully wrote one of these up for her kids.  My therapist seconded the idea.  So,  I wrote one up with Daily, Weekly and "Whenever I Ask" chores plotted out for each kid. I showed them.  I explained the importance of it.  I posted it inside a kitchen cabinet regularly visited by everyone.   One month later:

Cara, sitting across the kitchen from said cabinet: "What's that white sheet of paper taped inside that cabinet?"

Me: "Really?  It's the CHORE CHART you're supposed to be following."

Cara: "Ohhhh....  huh..."  ...She then retreated from conversation while sitting right in front of me.

So now, it comes down to bribing situations.  But we're from Jersey, so it doesn't even really feel like a bribe. It feels like what's right.  Things like, "Sure you can have friends over" or "Sure, I'll take you to the mall," or "Yeah, I'll bring you to Game Stop" BUT "You have to help with cleaning up around here."

Of course, the kids react like duly indignant Hudson County politicians.  But like those back room heroes, they inevitably realize that in order to get their way, they have to grease the palm, or clean the kitchen.  Whichever.

Everybody has their bitter pill to swallow.