Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unpleasing Tasks

My boys, like me, have certain chores they don't mind doing. I can't stand folding and putting away clothes, or unloading the dishwasher, but I can sweep or vacuum anytime, and I'm good at keeping the laundry moving along - through the washer and dryer, that is.

For their part, during the past two months, they've happily made their beds, put their dirty clothes in the hamper, and Windexed the counters in both bathrooms. They love using Windex, and will often beg to use it on the windows as well. The windows look horrible usually anyway, so letting them add a few smears doesn't bother me. All these chores go smoothly, and I'm so in love with them for it. I whip out the hugs and praise, feeling all proud and adoring. They're great kids, I tell myself, even if they're live wires.

But cleaning the playroom? They abhor it with every fiber of their being. Granted, they would choose it over shots at the doctor's office, but it's a close second in dreadedness. I guess I can understand. The playroom, the size of a one-car garage, gets pretty messy, with little things like Little People Zoo Animals, magnet alphabet letters, Little People misc. toys, books, stuffed animals of various sizes, small trucks, play food and dishes, puzzle pieces, etc. Just perusing the mess, at clean-up time, is overwhelming to the kids. But Don and I decided a few months ago that we needed to stop cleaning it for them. Asking them to clean up as they go doesn't work. I can't be there every minute to monitor the mess.

It was peaceful back then, when it was our responsibility. My honey and I would do it together before we went to bed, all the while talking about the cute things the kids said or did that day. It was the easy way. Not the best parenting, but the easiest, peaceful route. Have you noticed that what can be classified as good parenting often involves taking the hard, inconvenient, dreaded road? Like, say, giving your toddler a regular plastic cup, instead of a sippy, at dinner, knowing she'll dump at least part of it, should you take your eyes away. Or putting every side dish on your picky eater's plate, knowing it will go untouched 99.9% of the time. All of it takes emotional energy - the depths of which are astounding, while parenting those under eight. Parents of teenagers tell me it doesn't get any easier, but surely it must when everyone in the house can pour their own drink? Or wipe their own bottom, without coming out and mooning me, uttering, "Did I get it all?" Yes, folks, my 6.5 year old does that. He gets it all 90% of the time, but needs, or rather loves, the reassurance. Luckily for me, his little behind is adorable. Uh, can I say that on the Internet?

When we had them take over the playroom cleaning, I learned early that, due to their ages, they needed specific direction, and consistent monitoring. I can't just tell them to clean it, and then go about my business. I have to stay until the tornado of emotions is over, and the playroom is clean. They need to have the tasks broken down into small chunks. Even then, the whining is terrible. I often set a bell, which cuts down on the complaining. After all, they can't clean as fast while whining. Without the bell, the whining takes longer than the actual cleaning. I don't tell myself they're great kids at this time. I don't feel all gushing. I feel all steamy, not at all adoring - all the while trying hard not to get sucked into the emotional tornado.

Seriously, this thirty-minute segment of my day is the. most. exhausting. I have taken toys away when the attitudes have gotten particularly unacceptable, and they've lost privileges for throwing fits during this time. However, we've stood firm. I wish I could say it's getting easier, but unfortunately, NO.

But I have a plan. A plan is good, folks. Makes you feel like you're staying one step ahead of them. My next strategy is to have them do it at the same time every day, rather than me randomly deciding when I feel up to the tooth-pulling challenge of it. Experts say kids behave better when they know what to expect from their day. Such predictability works well during homeschool time; hopefully, it will work equally well with play-room cleaning.

The sweet upside is that Emily Rose feels empathy for Mommy during this daily stress fest. God, she's a doll. She goes around picking up balls and other simple things, wanting to make me smile. I remember the boys happily picking up toys at her age as well. They were all about pleasing. WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED?

So what is YOUR least favorite chore? What is your least favorite parenting task? Don't say brushing your toddler's teeth, because that goes without saying. Just getting the toothbrush into Emily's stubbornly-closed mouth is an acrobatic challenge. Don't even ask about reaching those fourteen teeth she's sporting. Yes, that's right - fourteen. They're not rotten yet, as far as I can tell.


christina said...

I dread the getting out the door and off to school ritual. 2 or 3 minutes or really intense whining. Also the tired and grumpy pick up after school when the whole ride home is filled with whining. Basically anything involving whining, lol.

Ashley said...

My least favorite chore is definitely laundry. I'm really good at chores that I can start and power through all in one shot, even if they are mundane, time-consuming chores like spot-cleaning the carpet on the stairs or organizing outgrown clothes. I love the feeling of accomplishment and purpose as I work through a task like that.

Laundry, on the other hand, just seems to interrupt my day at the worst times. As soon as I get dinner on the table or start a fun game with Isaiah, the dryer buzzes, and I feel the compelling need to get the clothes folded and put away because otherwise they will end up wrinkled and my laundering will go to waste. If I can motivate myself to do a single load of laundry every day instead of having one giant laundry day, it all seems to go better because at least I am only interrupted by the dryer once. Another bonus of that method is my whole house smells like clean laundry every day.