Monday, December 12, 2016

I live in a pile of garbage. Hashtag parenting life.

Once upon a time I was a young married woman with nooooooo children. My equally young and childless husband and I lived in a 2000 square foot house that we rented. Far too much room for just the two of us, we knew.  In that house, we vacuumed about once a month, scrubbed the bathrooms down every couple weeks or so, and the only way you could tell people lived there at all, was the few dishes we'd left in the sink, and the occasional pile of clean clothes that no one wanted to fold. So sure, we were showing signs of being garbage people already. We didn't "work hard" to "improve our quality of life". Instead we did our jobs, ate out frequently, and we made sure that our dirty clothes landed in the hamper at the end of the day. When we moved out of the house, it was so clean and well taken care of that the landlady had a new family in there the next day. We lived a beautiful, naive, and wonderfully simple little life.

Smash cut to: TODAY. Because today is different. Today we have four children and a 1400 square foot house that we bought because that 4 bedroom was just so, so very much space. In this home, there is no room. There is no storage. There is hardly any visible floor space. There is. No. Escape.

Which is not to say that we're not trying, of course. We do dishes multiple times a day, but it's still been years since this house had a clean spoon lying in the silverware drawer. Nope. Our utensils go from dishwasher to sticky fingered child, and right back again. We wash clothes every day. We pick up constantly. We sweep CONSTANTLY. Our vacuum is used so frequently that it seldom finds its way back into the hall closet, and yet I'm still starting to forget what color my carpet is supposed to be.

Of course, most of this is probably my fault. Like I said, my first inclination was to be a garbage person. I'm trying to be better, sweet Mary, I swear I'm trying. But when you add my natural garbage-ness with the 2 parent working household, plus the homeschool issue, you get a situation wherein the tiny sticky humans are always here, everyone is always busy, and exhaustion rules the day. It's bad. Trust me. It's super bad. But then you get my personal convictions involved, and suddenly, it's so very much worse.

See, I want my kids to learn to do chores. Partially, because I think kids who don't participate in serving others turn very quickly into fermented piles of walking cow dung, and I don't want my children to be poop. But more practically speaking, I want to live in a world wherein I am not the servant to a bunch of walking cow dung. They participate a very great deal to the mess. Plus? As it turns out, (Shh. Seeeeecret) I am rather lazy about housework.

As of today, my children are 7, 6, 4 1/2, and 3. They are responsible for picking up their own toys, cleaning their rooms, making their beds, picking up dog poo, folding and putting away their laundry, cleaning and sweeping under the kitchen table (where it would otherwise look like that scene from Casper), and occasionally: emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, and wiping down the bathroom counters.

My kitchen floor. Basically.
Fun story: my kids are very bad at their chores. It turns out that young persons are better at making a mess than fixing a mess. Their beds mostly look ridiculous. Their clothes are shoved into their drawers in ways that leave them nice and wrinkly. Por ejemplo:
My sons' bedroom drawers. They were super proud of putting their clothes away. 
Once, I asked the girls to clean out the cat's litter box. They did. Well, they half did. In the end, most of the poo wasn't scooped, and I found a trail of urine soaked kitty sand that led through half my house, so now they never have to clean the litter box again! I mean, it was a diabolically smart move. I spent a half hour re-cleaning the house. Because for sure, I'm going to draw the line at urine trails.

In my last post I encouraged my kids to keep trying, and keep failing. And despite the fact that sometimes they break my dishes, and sometimes they track urine soaked kitty sand through the house, I stand by that. They are learning. They are growing. And some day, they will be responsible, respectable grown up humans who don't expect other people to serve them. And best of all? Their lives will have meaning and value. Because that's what hard work gives you. That's what serving others gives you.  So yeah. I'm going to continue living in a pile of garbage. Because we're overworked and underpaid. Because the house is too small with too many people and too little storage space. And because we value the kids' participation more than we value things being done "right". Also, I'm still lazy. But hush about that. Remember? We're calling it values.

Which, of course, also means that last night when my 3-year-old found the half-filled cereal bowl at the table that had been abandoned in our rush out the door to church that morning, and tried to carry it to the sink by himself but instead dumped the warm milk/squishy cereal combo all over himself, the table, and the floor, I take a deep, deep breath, and say, "Thank you so much for helping, buddy."

Thank you so much for helping. Now pardon me, I need to go grab a mop.

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