Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Why I don't Make My Kids Clean Up
The title of this is slightly misleading, I do ask my kids to clean up after themselves... when it matters. It drives me absolutely bonkers when people jump all over their kids to pick up after themselves the minute they finish whatever they were doing. For example, say my kids have been working together building blocks. It's a nice quiet morning, I'm enjoying my coffee and smiling about how well the girls are playing together these days as I sneakily listen in on their conversation. They chatter back and forth while they create a zoo out of our vast wooden block collection. Echo takes the role of project manager, directing Clover as only a big sister can. Clover runs back and forth fetching animals for the zoo. Her face will suddenly light up before she runs off, trotting down the hall, and brings back a giraffe and you can tell that is exactly what she had in mind by the satisfied look on her face. When they are finished building do I immediately jump in and say "time to clean up!"? All that hard work they put in building and working together, do I insist they knock it all down and put it away before they go outside to play? Personally I don't have the heart to do that. I would much rather deal with a messy house than rob them of their accomplishment by dismantling it the instant it is "complete". How would I even be able to tell when it's complete anyway? Of course the blocks can't stay their forever but in my mind there is nothing wrong with leaving them there for an afternoon, or even a day or two if they are still using them. Usually the blocks don't get put away until we need to floor space for something else or when things just get so cluttered that I feel like we need a refresh.
Another scenario that often happens at our house is that my kids while abruptly change course in the middle of a project (anyone with toddlers has experienced this I'm sure). So if we are sticking with the zoo building scenario, talking about zoos may lead to talking about animals we like or have seen at the zoo. This may give Echo the idea that she wants to paint some of the animals she has seen at the zoo and she rushes off, brimming with enthusiasm, to gather her painting supplies and begin work. That enthusiasm for her work, for her projects and for learning is so precious. The last thing I want to do is kill it by stopping her in her tracks and making put away her her blocks and toy animals before she can get out her paints.
As I said at the beginning of this post I do ask them to help me clean up sometimes. If we need a clear space to work on a puzzle, a large painting, or another project I will get them to help me put things away to make room. If the clutter is just starting to drive me nuts I will ask them to help me out. Just like any other member of our household, I expect them to be there for me when I tell them I need help. On the other hand I don't really mind picking up after them most of the time. I love to see them rushing off to the next activity, filled with excitement, and it's not a huge deal to pick up a few toys while they are busy doing that. The way I see it is that they are kids, it's their job to play, learn and grow. My job as their mom is to help them do their job and sometimes that means I do more than my fair share of cleaning. More often than not I am off joining them on their adventures and leaving the cleaning for another time anyway. Like my mom always says, there will be plenty of time to have a clean house when the kids are grown! In the mean time it makes me smile to see their creations, their projects, the evidence of their work, scattered all over the house. To me this is evidence of the rich lives they are leading.