Friday, July 18, 2008

Preschool cleanup thoughts - and some skills

I want to thank all of you who posted ideas this week for helping keep a step ahead of little ones and the messes they love to create.

In the process of moving this year (in which most of our kids' toys were in storage for a few months), I was reminded again how very little kids need to keep themselves entertained. Yesterday my girls played with two large boxes most of the afternoon. It is not more stuff that generates creativity; it's the absence of it. The reason Grandma could clean her house top to bottom every week is because her kids didn't have collections of Beanie Babies, Webkinz and Rescue Heroes. We could learn from her.

And an update on Neal-13. His room has stayed relatively neat this week. I helped him sort all his "junk" into plastic dishpans (the cheapest organizing bins there are), labeled them, and put them on the shelf in the top of his closet (the bins were there at our old house, but without labels, they became junk collections). I also gave him a plastic box for his mementoes, so that ribbons, certificates, favorite rocks (!) and things he wants to save don't get mistakenly thrown away by overzealous mothers.

I even went so far as to put sticky notes on all his dresser drawers telling him where everything goes. I take nothing for granted.

One thing I forgot to mention. Just an observation here.

When my kids are obstinate about NOT doing something I've assigned to them (in this case, unpacking and organizing a room), once I have ruled out outright disobedience (passive or otherwise), often I realize they are not doing it because they lack the skill to do the job.

In the case of my older kids, I know I dropped the ball in the bedroom department about the time Ruthie-4 (baby #5) was born. They seemed big, they acted like they knew what they were doing (I had taught them, after all), and it wasn't really that bad. So I stopped following through consistently because I was overwhelmed with other responsibilities.

Here we are, back then. This was taken 5 days after Ruthie was born. Do I look like I could care a lick about someone's bedroom?The good news is, when I look at teaching my kids to care for their rooms and their stuff as a skill (and one that I have not mastered, at that!), it takes some of the emotion out of it. They are not being slobs to persecute me. Even if they are big, and even if we think they "should" know better, they obviously still need some instruction and/or follow through. We want them to learn the skills that will keep them from making their future spouses feel persecuted. This is all the motivation this mother needs!

The other day (after the cleanup incident), Neal said, "Mom, I want to spend some time with you - just you and me." I am just smart enough to know that when your teenage son says that to you, you'd better drop everything and do it!

So yesterday we got up early and went to breakfast, just the two of us. (And no, he did not order an omelette. "They probably can't make one as good as I can.") We talked about his new friends, his old friends. He gave me the scoop on Allie's-14 friends (brothers are such awesome judges of their sisters' choices). We talked about music (his passion). We talked about the future. We laughed a lot.

He is growing into such a fine young man. I enjoy his company. Sure, he still needs some skills, but I don't want that to become a stumblingblock in our relationship. Life is just too short for that.


Mary said...

I only have one child, a 12 yo boy, but we still have problems with keeping things neat. He will often say "I don't know how to clean up my room! I don't know what to do with all this stuff!" It's taken me a while to catch on to the fact that he really does lack the skill and that I need to help him. Things that seem so simple to me really are a challenge for him.

I have to add, aren't dates with your boy the best? I love chatting with him over chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I learn so much.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry... just a few more thoughts here - - - this morning I thought of Mary and Martha in Luke chapters 10-12 is it?... anyway, just about how even though we do try to keep a clean and orderly house, DOING things FOR Him ( Martha ), God doesn't want us to neglect our time WITH Him ( Mary ). Also, we need to teach and model to our children, that true peace and happiness does not come from a clean home with children perfectly dressed and a mother who always has dinner on the table strictly at 6pm... but, rather, our children need to see that our joy is NOT circumstantial. We can still be "ok" when there are messes to attend to. I read in 1 Samuel chapters 1-2 this morning ( about Hannah raising Samuel until he was weaned and taking him to the temple to learn to serve the Lord )... was reminded that motherhood is raising our children to love and know the Lord and handing them over to His service.

I was given the example of a mother being a doormat... very humbling isn't it?! But there is great significance - A doormat is placed in front of the door, of course, so that people may wipe their shoes on it to get rid of the mud and yuck, so that they may enter the house clean.... in the same way God uses a mother to be the doormat for her children - wiping away the mud and yuck that comes from living in this corrupt world so that they may enter God's presence as pure and righteous.

And by the way, you look fabulous, Katherine - I would never have guessed that you just had a newborn!

Susanne said...

Ha, I thought I was the only one who sticky posted drawers for their kids. LOL.

It was a huge realization for me when it dawned on me that when I sent my child in to clean her room and hours later it still was pretty much the same, that it might not be disobediance or rebellion but that she was just overwhelmed with where to start and what to do. It changed the way I approached the whole thing. ie: a vague and general "go clean your room", then nagging and getting frustrated vs breaking the big job into smaller, well defined tasks for her. I also had to make an "open door" policy while the cleaning time was happening.

Aren't brothers wonderful for giving you the lo down on their sisters. I find the same thing. LOL. Glad you had such a nice time with Neil!

Maureen said...

HI Katherine

I agree that creativity comes from having less things. My three younger children have to share a room, so we decided we would only keep the toys that they truly loved and played with often due to the limited space in their room.

I will never forget my daughter about 5 or 6 at the time had a friend over. The friend asked my daughter where are all of your toys? My daughter was confused by this question. She replied right here in my closet. The friend commented on how she felt sorry for my daughter because she hardly had any toys! My kids don't feel that way at all. They love the things they have and they love having a clean room and not having to step over a bunch of junk all the time.

It gives them more space to pretend to play school or house or whatever other game they come up with in their room. How sad this little girl thinks you are supposed to own lots of things.

How did you get your 13 yr old to "want" to spend time with you??? My oldest is 18 and for a few years now we have been in that stage where they just want to be as far away from you as possible :)


Jamie said...

Great insight! I can be overwhelmed with large tasks at times...I need to remember that my kids probably feel the same.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

One of Camden's (9) chores this summer is to "clean his room" a few times a week. I made it *several* times a week because it's far too overwhelming for him if I say "go clean your whole room." This way, I say, "Choose part of your room that needs attention and straighten it up." SO much more success this way.

MamaZ said...

I often read your blog but have never commented, but after reading this blog, I felt I needed to congratulate you on putting your family first.
I am a mother of three and grandmother of 4 (and a half)! None of my children kept their rooms particularly neat, but one of them consistently had a messy bedroom. When he was about 15 yrs. old, I concluded that nagging about the state of his bedroom was becoming detrimental to our relationship. So I kept the door to his bedroom closed so I would not have to look at it. I only washed the clothes that he put in the hamper. Every few weeks, I would announce that WE would be cleaning out his room at a specified time.
What has amazed me is that these apparently messy, disorganized children somehow became neater and more organized as young adults after they left home. Go figure!

Marian said...

Hey, I just linked you up!
Prepare to blush. =)

Andrea said...

Do I look like I could care a lick about someone's bedroom?
Uh, well, actually you do, Katherine.
You look amazing for having a five day old!! I am jealous!
What a sweet family picture.

Michelle @ Sew-Krafty said...

I posted a little while back about being our kids' personal trainers. It's not about telling them to do something, or even teaching a skill once. It's about training...over and over and over. The repitition gets overwhelming sometimes, but I really liked the way you put it: "it takes some of the emotion out of it."
I'm working on that non-emotonal thing. Thank you for the reminder!

Marc and Charity said...

You look pretty darn good 5 days post-partum my friend! :)

Did you hear our news? Baby #3 is due in Feb! I'm terrified. :)

Beck said...

Wait wait wait... that was FIVE DAYS POST PARTUM? You looked AMAZING!

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

C'mon something for ya!

Unknown said...

I am awful at teaching the skill of cleaning things up.

I am not so good at keeping my own spaces neat and orderly, but I realize that I need to make sure my children see that and learn to follow along.