When at School we were told that the universe strives for chaos (so called Entropy). What we weren’t told then is that so will your children.
When your toddler first starts to be mobile, you notice that suddenly those toys are spreading in the ever widening crawling radious of you baby, which is now a toddler. So far so good. Even when looking at Mimi #2 who is now 1.5 years old, it seems that the way she plays makes a somewhat contained mess. Which is why I have to confess that I was not prepared for what followed when Mimi #1 turned three last month and we visited a friend with a boy the same age as Mimi #1. It was the first time we have actually felt the need to clean up my friends’ house before we left, just to make sure we could enter that home of hers again in the not too distant future. And, as it is, her child (a boy the exact same age as Mimi #1) had never before managed to achieve the level devastation my offspring brought upon her in 1 hour of playing.
Joining the Team.
Mimi #1 suddenly seems to have joined team Universe in it’s mission for total chaos. Her mess-making abilities are superior to others (unfortunately it seems that this is not a skill in kids which parents can boast of). Fact is, she has developed the destructive force of a medium sized Tornado when kept indoors. Her ability to create Entropy is actually quite impressive, and quite unnerving:
Another reason to eagerly long for spring: the water games.
Honestly, if we’re at home for more than 2 hours, I can guarantee that we will have to change the clothes of at least one Mimi on the grounds of waterplay when we’re either cooking, or taking a shower, or maybe just brushing our teeth. In fact, sometimes I silently sneak upstairs to brush my teeth secretly and silently just so nobody thinks of “the water”. I know it’s developmentally totally beneficial to do this but GOD sometimes it is annoying. Just can’t wait for summer when the kids can play outside to their hearts content, slowly turning our backyard into a swamp.
Doing some proper grown-up stuff.
So some of Mimi#1’s latest achievements have made us as parents realise that we will finally have to do some active education on the concept of “cleaning up” for the sake of our future co-habitation. Something we had silently agreed on skipping so far, probably, to be honest, out of sheer parenting lazyness. And also because we consider ourselves to have quite a laid-back approach to the concept of “a mess”. However, we have reached a stage where even we came to this decision on the grounds of there being a noticeable difference between a baby spreading out the toys (adorable) and a toddler voluntarily raging through the cupboards with an intention (helping team Universe score some bonus points perhaps?).
So this then is it, this is where we will have our first trial of getting Mimi #1 to do something she doesn’t want to do (and -in fact- trying to throw the Universe a curveball). Sucker for facts that I am, I have of course consulted some books (well, actually just one parenting-book to be honest…) and talked to a mom-friend on when to start doing this (turns out we’re probably already late).
Helpful and not-so-helpful advice.
The book told me to make cleaning into a fun game (HAHA), at which I’m so far only half successful. Mimi #1 ist not really impressed but at least me suggesting things like “you take all the red Lego and I’ll put all the green Lego in the box” makes it more interesting for me. And also telling her exactly what we have to do, replacing the abstract concept of “clean up the mess” with a concrete action like “we will put the playmobile figures now back into that box” etc. only work sporadically.
A glimpse into the family future.
It’s a struggle, but I cannot face the future with a human who will just drop everything wherever she feels like it and having somebody else clean it up all the time ( I will settle for 99% of the time for now, as, you know, the Universe…). It’s fair enough for us as parents to be doing this for our kids for a while, but ultimately we want our family to be a place where everybody, including the parents, feel good. It will not become an utter dictatorship of the kids.
Empathy is what it comes down to.
What I want to achieve most importantly though is for her to grasp the concept that eventually somebody will have to do it for her if she doesn’t. And I know that’s probably asking too much of a three-year-old, which is why we only do very short bouts of cleaning up. But I am really adamant that she’ll help. Hoping it will get more of a routine soon. And also -silently- hoping that it will tame her destructive force somewhat (i.e. that she help me contend against the Universe, probably that’s unfair??)
Practical advice, anyone?
Do you have any advice on how to get them to grasp the cleaning-up concept and making it into a part of your daily routine at home? Do you threaten them to hoover everything up if they don’t help (something which seems to work quite well actually, but which I find slightly un-cooperative)? I would be really glad for some advice (in German or English) in the comments below. I suspect this will not get any easier for sure (and remembering how I was as a kid, I probably should have stayed right there with team Universe!)
P.S: I know that being happy in a mess is far superior to being unhappy but tidy!!!