Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thoughts on housekeeping and kids

I've been busy cleaning house this week--tackling jobs I've been avoiding, and rearranging furniture, and bugging my husband to help with the jobs I can't reach. For this to happen, there's either got be some huge event on the horizon, like either the rapture or my mother coming for a visit. Or I've simply reach the limit of my tolerance. This week, it's the latter.

A long time ago I concluded my life as a wife and mother would be about more than cleaning, that I wanted to do more than worry about ring around the toilet (or was that collar?). So I tend to ignore dust unless we have company coming or I have a kid wandering around with nothing to do (and is foolish enough to say so). I'm pretty uptight about the kitchen and bathroom being clean for obvious reasons. I don't want animals in bedrooms (though, in truth, they wind up there sometimes despite my efforts). There is zen in the midst of clutter, you just have to know how to not look at it (or trip over it).

My other goal is to teach the boys to do for themselves. Here's why: When the boys were little, our minister stated in a sermon on parenting that mothers should stop themselves before they pick up behind their small children and ask the question, "Do I want to be right here doing this same thing again tomorrow?" If the answer is no, the mother should go get the child (and this may mean calling them in from play) and have them do it for themselves. He went on to point out how life lessons begin with small gestures such as cleaning up one's own messes. I agree.

The other thing driving me is living with a man whose mother did everything for him while he was growing up, up to and including picking out his clothes for him until he was a junior in high school. He never washed a dish, made a bed, did laundry, or swept a floor. Fortunately the Marines got to him before I did, so most of the groundwork was laid for me by the time we got married, but afterwards, he made it clear through gestures (or lack thereof) that he expected what his mother had done for him to continue.

He should have picked door number two. This model came with a word processor, not a vacuum.

Fortunately, he caught on fast. And the good news is, he doesn't much care how I keep house, so if I want to write all day, or play in the garden, or simply hang out with the boys, he's good with that. The bad news is he doesn't care if he adds to the mess or not and he's totally oblivious to the messes the boys make unless I complain. To his credit, he has learned to cook which is great, but now I live with a food critic. (More on that another time)

So for lots of psychological and physiological reasons, housekeeping and cooking are a community affair here. The boys more or less clean their own rooms twice a week--with a lot of nagging from me and an occasional deep cleaning. They have a bathroom of their own that I only venture into when I have to, but once a week I send someone in with a mop and cleaning supplies to clean it up (They prefer "my" bathroom--gee I wonder why?). Everybody takes turns doing dishes, helps with laundry, sweeping, and vacuuming, mowing the lawn, and caring for the animals. This means that I get to settle for less than perfect until they master how to do it right or until I decide that it needs more attention than they've given it.

What I'm hoping for is men who are good roommates and husbands, who don't see housekeeping as women's work, who are more aware of living in their own filth than many of the guys they'll be going to college with. I want my daughter-in-laws to tell me "Thank you for making this easier." (Instead of what I wanted to say to my mother-in-law)

But I'm also hoping the message will extend itself to other parts of their lives. That they'll be more inclined to contribute to society, to do their part of the "housekeeping" as it were, more or less as that minister said.

I'll let you know in ten years whether it works or not.


Scotty said...

My son once said to me, "That's how teenagers are, Dad, we're messy by nature so why do you keep nagging me about it?"

My response?

"Because that's how parent's are, mate, and so I guess you have some choices to make. You can either get used to the idea of personal responsibility in learning to clean up behind yourself from time to time OR you can start collecting the myriad stuff you leave all over the place from out in the shed because starting today, that's where I'll be putting it. Trust me, you won't hear another word from me on the issue but know this also; I won't accept a single nag from you about having to go the shed..."

debby said...

I never worried about the kids bedrooms. They kept their doors shut. I figure that my son did us a favor...he had so many dirty clothes on the floor of his room that his carpet still looks brand new. I have a couple rules. I don't go looking for laundry. If it's not in the basement next to the washer, it doesn't get washed. The other is that everyone under this roof has an obligation to help. My 18 year old is going through the most awful phase. If she's not at work, she's with her friends. She takes the phone into the black hole that is her room and we go searching for it, or my hairbrush, etc. We had a meeting about this, and the fact that she does not help. Her comeback: 'It is not MY responsibility.' So we told her that her choice was to do her share around the house or start paying room and board. Where do these attitudes come from? She's always been such a reasonable kid. Now she's a snotwad.

LOL: 'He should have picked door number two...'

Mary Paddock said...

Oooh! I never thought about putting their stuff in the shed, Scotty! That's a good one. I'll file that one away for future reference.

Debby, I try really hard not to go into Jeremiah and Daniel's room unless I just have to. (It upsets me that much). Joe and Sam basically care enough to make an effort so I don't have to say as much to them. But I just can't make myself completely ignore the messes either. I have my mother to thank for that one.

Living in a houseful of men certainly opens one's eyes to the difference between what the sexes "see". The look of "What's she so upset about?" is seen frequently around here on all the male faces.

My bet is Cara come back around once she goes off to college. It sounds like she's simply ready to be out on her own. My dad assures me the snottiness in the last year or two at home is part of the separation process. He recommends a mixture of patience and butt-kicking. I'll let you know if I ever figure out the proper proportions.

debby said...

Too late for me, Mary. They're out on their own now.

My sister always said, "The teenage years are God's way of making sure it doesn't break your heart when they leave."

jeanie said...

Loved Scotty's response!

V is actually tidier than I, so I bless his mother every day for being a busy working single mother who required him to do his share of chores!

I am more a blitz cleaner than an everyday one - once I am fired up, its on!!!