So one day, a good while back, I was cleaning the boys bathroom.
Wait… before we proceed, I want you to gather a mental picture of that, a scratch and sniff kind of mental picture. Three boys… one bathroom, need I say more?
Okay, so like I said, I was cleaning the bathroom and my middle son said, "Hey, can I help you do that?"
So I taught him. We went over the basics of spraying and scrubbing the countertop and sink. Cleaning the mirrors, tub and toilet (he thought this last part was hysterical) and mopping down the floor. He actually ENJOYED cleaning the bathroom which left me wondering, "Why the heck have I been doing the cleaning by myself?"
I mean don't get me wrong, my boys have been responsible for keeping their rooms picked up, sometimes unloading the dishwasher, carrying clothes from the dryer to the couch for folding, taking care of the animals… but they've not really done much actual, bonafide CLEANING. Sure, they help rinse dishes now and again, but I mean real CLEANING.
About this time I also happened to stumble upon this great post from Jessica at Balancing Everything and it was like all the birds sang and the church bells chimed! She was singing my song!
So, slowly, ever so slowly, we've been enabling the young folks in this house to pull their own weight.
just simple stuff…
We got a good high stool for the kitchen and one of those scrubbers that dispenses soap. They now clean their own dishes, rinse and put them in the rack at the end of each meal.
They also sweep under the table, spot mop (with kid sized broom and mop) and wipe down the counters.
We have one of those carpet sweepers (with one of the links removed so that it becomes the right height for small people), and they use it to clean up the living room and school room floors at the end of each day.
A couple of times a week, one of them will handle the clean up of their toxic waste dump
It's a beautiful thing, not just because it means less work for me, but for other, more important reasons.
1) They enjoy it. For real! They enjoy meaningful work. The are proud of helping and contributing to the family. I know that it won't always be fun for them to scrub a bathroom, but I think it will be a lot easier to get their help when they are older if pitching in has been a natural part of their life from the time they were very young.
2) They are a lot less likely to make careless messes when they know they are going to be cleaning them up. Our table manners are MUCH improved because they now understand that if they get food all over the table and chairs and floor, they will be the ones to clean it.
3) They are becoming better people for it. They are seeing that they have hands to lend when there is a job to be done. I think that all too often we (parents in general) tend to think of kids as handicapped – somehow unable to do the things that need to be done. So we do it for them, when really, we just need to find better ways to equip them to handle things on their own.
I see a change too when we are out and about – my boys are far more likely to offer assistance to others now that have seen that they are capable of giving real help.
4) They are becoming better MEN for it. These boys will not grow into men who think that taking care of their home is "women's work." They see their Papa pitch in and do dishes and help pick up, but just as a function of the fact that I'm HERE all day, they mostly see me cleaning. I don't want them to take away an unintended message from that – that cleaning is meant for girls. So, as they are cleaning I praise them for being my big, strong, able-bodied manly men who know how to ride in, push up their sleeves and get 'er done.
All good stuff…. and the clean house is like icing on the cake!