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Monday, October 27, 2014

Keeping The Kids Clean: Part Two

Welcome to The Scariest Best Things Week! Some very spooky posts are headed your way this week. To begin, Part Two: a very chilling account of how I don't keep my kids clean. Promise that the following posts will be very Halloween-y! 


It's time for some Fall House Cleaning.
And instead of cleaning it, we have been trying to get out of it as much as we can.
Soaking up the crisp autumn weather, visiting the remaining ducks and geese before they head south and exploring the leafy forests seem like a better idea than cleaning.
Because well, I am lazy about cleaning AND it always feels like a losing battle.

We live in a 1200sq ft house. There are five of us. Plus one more coming home from afar, plus one more on the way. That all equals an avalanche of mess in this house.
There are food crumbs, laundry, art leftovers, outside particles (such as dirt - it sounds better the other way), toys, toys, did I say toys?, everywhere you look. One could spend the entire day sweeping and putting away and turn around to find it all back the same way. 
I can't fight that battle. It makes me insane. AND I don't have time to clean around the clock.
I have way too much playing to do!
But this post is less about the mess that is inside my house. Maybe another day.
This post is about how that mess gets on my children and how, then I take my children and that mess out of my house into (drumroll) the REAL, CLEAN-ish world.

Now, before I go any further, let me set a few things straight.


1. Order and cleanliness are important. Kinda.
Order helps kids feel secure. Keeping things neat helps kids focus and so on and so forth.
Time out.
Order doesn't always look neat and tidy.
I help my kids feel secure. They know no matter what the mess looks like, I'll always be there to help them or support them in cleaning it up, now or forever.
I also have found that if my kids find an activity worthy, they will focus when they are ready and that doesn't mean it will always look like they are focusing to me.

For example, when the Legos explode all over the playroom and all the other toys in the playroom end up in the living room - that's Babe-Os way of ordering his most important toys and his workspace.
Similarly, when he can't find something he really wants because I didn't clean up after him or it's lost in the morass he learns a little bit about keeping order, without me having to nag or make orders.
But that's order of possessions.
How about the order of a routine?
Well, we have one of those. It consists of waking up, sustaining our bodies with nutrition when we are hungry, doing what makes us happy, maintaining our hygiene when it is agreeable to all*, and trying not to boss each other around all day long until our bodies feel tired enough to go to sleep.

*One trick to getting a kid who doesn't want to take a bath to take a bath is to let them do something really really messy so that they get so messy that they really want to take a bath.


 2. I don't require my kids to clean up.
They aren't there yet. There is NO interest in cleaning up ANYTHING.
Some kids have that desire. Mine don't.
One day they will be more ready to cooperate in the cleaning. I hope.
Instead of singing songs to myself and playing games, or devising clever games to try to interest them while I do all the cleaning alone (which I have tried) I talk a little bit about it and then do the nasty job myself.
So I'll say, " Look at all these toys. I don't want to trip over them. Let's put some away."
And then I 'll just do it.
Or when I think he can handle it I'll say, "Put this in the toy box." And just hand Babe-O the toy. Sometimes I get a little help and sometimes I don't.
Here's the most important lesson I have learned about asking for help.
If I expect a yes answer, don't ask. It just makes me mad when I don't get one.
How about spills? or sticky fingers? or messy faces?
For spills I just say, " It's okay. Let's clean it up." And do the same as above. Mostly, clean it up myself while they hold an extra towel.
For messy selves I hand them a wipe and try to get a wipe in myself, or I let it go.
Because I'd rather give them freedom. I'd rather give them a choice to be as they are. I'd rather have peace.

3. They are healthy.
Everyone has a bath at least every other day.
They pee in the water and I don't drain it. But because I have recently had a guilty moment I checked on that. It turns out pee water is sterile. So I am okay on that.
I clean the bathroom.
I wash the floors and change the sheets (occasionally).
I wash clothes. (I don't always fold it, but believe me I wash it.)
I wash their hands before they eat and after they use the toilet and whenever we go somewhere that gives me the eeby jeebies (most of the time).
I change diapers and keep their skin healthy.
I brush their teeth and their hair when they let me.
I do the important things. (For example, under no circumstances can anyone drink the bathwater, only the water that comes out of the faucet. But they drink it with cups that have been in the bathwater. Well, no one has died or been sick so we are okay on that too.)



So, here is what unclean looks like for us:

I let them feed themselves. At home, in public, in the car. Whenever they are hungry.
I let them eat what they like. I don't limit to-go foods to dry foods. I let them eat yogurt and smoothies in the car. I let them pick apart their sandwiches and eat peanut butter with their fingers. I let them use big people utensils and serve themselves. I let them drink out of cups with no lids because who wants to suck their drink out of a tiny hole in a plastic lid all the time?

I don't use bibs. They don't like them. Never have. Not as babies and not as toddlers. They always cry and complain and tear them off anyway. Plus it's just more tiny laundry.


I let them play with their food. In fact it's our family pasttime. It's almost a daily occurrence. Whether Batman has to save the Lego guys from the syrup filled holes in a waffle or we make food specifically for the purpose of playing with it, it just happens and I'll never limit that or stop it. I 've even been known to turn a blind eye when they throw food.

I let them wipe their hands and face on their clothes or mine if we don't have a wipe with us.

I let them wear their leftovers in their hair if they want to. I try to clean it out, but sometimes they don't want me to. So there you go cashier at the grocery store, who handed me a paper towel to wipe down my kids. I am not doing it. You can recycle your paper towel.

I let them get dirtier. If we are at the park and there are muddy rocks to climb. I say, " go for it."
Even if we are going to the store next.  If it just rained and their are giant muddy puddles to splash in I say, "absolutely." We can usually find a way to clean off our boots enough to track only minimal dirt into the store or library or five star resturant with white linens and furniture (oh, wait Babe-O won't eat there so I guess I do that one). We have had to run home to grab dry socks. We have had to cancel plans to go home and take a bath.

I want to give my kids this time limited opportunity to be. a. kid. To be messy and enjoy it. To make a mess and play in it. To not even notice who may or may not be judging them.To be just exactly who they are, just exactly how they want to be. Because they are not just kids who look messy on the outside.

They are people who have opinions and desires about when and how and where they and their things are kept clean. And I'm not just their Mom who is or isn't doing my best job of keeping them clean. I'm the person caring for and protecting their right to be as they are.




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