25. The Anti-Cleanup

It’s ok, it’s a nice thought.  You’re allowed to have it.  Just don’t get stuck on it.  Having a boy help you clean up his mess would be such a satisfying and pleasant parenting moment… But it’s not gonna happen.

When asked to help clean up, boys usually run the other way.  Or stare blankly at you as if you’ve just asked them to compose a symphony.  Even when they do summon some energy or act helpful, do not fall for this.  Things are only going to get worse.

This is because boys possess the astounding ability to multiply even the slightest messes into a catastrophic wreck.  It’s nearly miraculous, like when Jesus just kept pulling fishes out of that kid’s lunch and fed 5,000 people.  Only with chocolate milk.  One of my boys can take three ounces of spilled chocolate milk and spread it over 950 square feet of our house.  Last week Nathan dumped his water all over the chair and floor (probably doing this), so I gave him the typical fatherly reprimand of “Well??  Clean it up.”  Then he blows through $9 worth of paper towels and there’s still enough water on the floor to pose a drowning hazard to his two-year-old sister.  It’s impossible.

One of my personal favorites occurs when I’ve cleaned the grime off the inside of the sliding glass door and moved on to the outside.  Then a boy comes up to assist in cleaning by following my every motion on the outside of the glass with his hands on the inside.  This procedure is nearly always performed immediately following a snack time involving large quantities of peanut butter.  It’s like a vicious cycle – I return inside to remove the fresh peanut butter, he goes out.  Rotate.  Oh, now he has a popsicle and he’s teaching his baby sister how to help.  We may be here for hours.

But don’t despair completely.  You have to keep at it, because at some point some of the training may pay off.  Not exactly when you want it to, but it’s a start.  My wife experienced this one night as she was teaching Nathan to empty the kitchen trash.  After helping him pull the full bag all the way out of the tall white can, she continued with a lesson on how to tie the bag shut.  Three seconds after she turned her back, Nicholas rolled up and dumped his entire paper plate full of taco debris right down the chute.  Tomatoes, sour cream, and greasy ground beef all over the inside of the empty can and every single fresh trash bag that we conveniently store in the bottom.

He never even hesitated, just rolled right on out the door.

Boys cannot be bothered with the intricacies of this cleanup business.  They have more pressing messes to tend to.

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9 thoughts on “25. The Anti-Cleanup

  1. I *promise* this will end if you keep it up! I won’t promise that it will be done with the skill of a mother – hence the phrase (used in our house) “Do you want our room clean or mom clean?” but they will have the capacity at some point before leaving the house to do at least one chore well and their future wives will thank you! *caugh – putting the toilet seat down*

    Just make sure to teach each of them a different something or your house won’t ever get clean!

    • I should probably implement an “age bracketing system” for these posts, because I do agree!! With our 5-year-olds it’s a disaster. Our 8-year-old is beginning to show signs of some “cleanin’ skillz.” Somewhere around age 12 I went into an insanely organized “neat freak” mode that lasted until college, when my roommates cured me of it. I’m just hoping some of my boys inherit that! :) Thanks for the encouragement!

      • Uh, Yeah! When He was a teenager, we would sneak into his room while he was gone and just slightly move something on his dresser…..and when he got home: “WHO WAS IN MY ROOM???” We used to do it just to see how long it took him to realize it had been moved! :) So SOMEWHERE down the road, these boys, disastrous as they may be right now, HAVE to inherit just a little bit of that cleaning power….just a tad.
        Of my 2 boys, the 8 year old, still likes to live in a cyclone, but my almost 13 year old is getting into the cleaner stage, he like his stuff, in his order, and don’t mess with it. There’s hope, Tony, there’s hope!

      • you know Tony, I remember that phase in your life well!! never saw a boys room as clean as their sisters!!! LOL

  2. I’ve discovered with my boy that some clean-up jobs are “fun” and some are just painful. For some reason, taking out the rubbish is fun. (I think it’s because Mr 4-year-old gets to pretend to be a garbage man.) So I can actually bribe him to clean up his toys by saying, “If you get this room clean before I count to 20, I’ll let you take out the rubbish.”

    Best. System. Ever.

    • You’re right, this is an awesome system and I don’t know why we don’t use it more often!! Our best method so far for getting a bunch of toys picked up is to declare a “toy race” with the winner getting the most toys. They usually fall for it. :)

  3. In the end, you have to just ask yourself, why do I need to see through glass doors anyway? I agree, boys are just not genetically inclined to clean the house – that’s probably why they make such good carpenters. I’ll bet Jesus was a slob when he was a kid. Whoops, I said it.

  4. I would like to tell you it will get better, but unfortunately men are still boys, and their messes follow them everywhere…sigh

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