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The Wrong Side of the Bed

July 2, 2009

School has been out for eighteen days now and my daughter (the younger) has not cleaned up the right side of her bed, –not to mention the closet. I suspect children are born defiant, because it is not as if she is not willing to do other work.  Just yesterday I had to tell her to stop dusting. I grew tired of smelling dusting spray.  And the day before she woke me up about 5:30 in the morning and asked which compartment on the washing machine takes bleach and how would she know if she poured enough or too much. She has never done laundry on her own, but, because I was sleeping and she wanted to do it, she figured it out, except when she got to the white clothes she did not know where and how much bleach to use, –or not use.   I woke up enough to tell her that she was not to touch the bleach EVER.  

There is a daily chore list posted.  She has one chore a day.  However, she does not do those chores without needling, and, they are much easier than what she elects to do.

 “Why can’t she just do what I tell her to do when I tell her to do it!” At first I got caught up in the unfairness and the difficulty of successful parenting (it takes so much effort, I whined).  I believe to be successful, one must be willing to follow through.  Yes, the hardest part of parenting is following through.  Don’t believe me, ask yourself how many times have you had to tell a child, or a parent/guardian had to tell you when you were a child, to do something.  That’s why my parents were lousy housekeepers. Neither of them had the tenacity to follow, remind, and/or enforce their children to do whatever chore that child was told to do. Not consistently, anyway.  They let the house stay a mess and when/if they could not tolerate a mess they pushed it off on the child(ren) who would fight them the least.   

I’ve known other children who lived in clean houses whose parents would stand over them and ask, “Or you going to leave that there?” A few minutes later, “Or you going to leave that there?” Then again, “Don’t forget not to leave that there?” A few days later, “I’m waiting for you to take care of that thing that you left where I told you not to leave it.” “Mom can I…..?” “No, not until you ……………….”

Of course a parent cannot be robotic, passive or tyrannical about it.  You must know how to say it.  When to say it.  How to change the inflection each time you repeat the same words. Because, I am convinced that children are born defiant!  Defiant, I tell you! But that is the rub, finding exactly how to work with the child you got. Hence, right now I think I am being outsmarted.

It would take no time to  pick the stuff off the floor, go through the closet, throw stuff away, and put the new coverlet (that she stole from me) on her bed, oh, and hang up those pants that have been hanging over the foot board for at least a month.  But no! Somewhere along the way, I asked wrong.  Because the child is determined not to clean that side of the bed up and instead do anything else. How can you fuss at a child that is willing to do so much? I feel like we are in a game of chess and she is zooming in on my Queen.

Exhibit A:

1.  Fake plastic donut (There is a container for all  toy food)

2.  Loose crayons (there is a container for all crayons)

3.  Guitar. (She needs to take the guitar and put it by the front door so we can remember to take it and get a string fixed)

4.  The contents of her backpack from the last day of school

5.  One loose crayon (see #2)

6.  A microscope that she had to have for Christmas.  It needs to be taken out of the box and put on her desk.

7.  The Slip-n-Slide that she got for her birthday, she needs to be put on a closet shelf.

8.  More papers from her backpack (see #4)

9.  Whiteboard.  Needs to be put back on the wall in her study area.

10. Needs to hang up pants

11. Needs to put coverlet on bed.

12. Needs to put up her Hello Kitty (it was birthday present, I would not buy my daughter anything Hello Kitty) wallet/billfold

13.  An old yellow balloon

14.  An old red balloon

6 Comments
  1. July 2, 2009 12:29 am

    I told her I was going to post it. LOL!

    And yes the closet door stays open like that all the time. It is what happens when things are in the way. Also, there is my black head band in the middle of her papers. I’ve been looking for that head band.

  2. July 2, 2009 1:36 am

    I woke up enough to tell her that she was not to touch the bleach EVER.

    Seriously good call there. I remember my brother waking up my mom early one Mother’s Day to ask if there was a big difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. He was trying to make muffins. I can’t remember if the substance in question was salt or baking soda, but they were inedible.

    I have so many thoughts about this! I feel like I am you AND your daughter all rolled into one. I love having a tidy home, and in my mind I know it is just not that hard or time consuming to tidy up, but I also often fight this horrid inertia, especially when things get to the point they are in that photo. I should take a picture for you of the amoeba-like pile of stuff that lives next to my desk; I attack it every so often and file things and throw away other things and still it grows.

    I’ve recently been reading about attention deficit disorder and, much as I hate psychy crap, I recognize a lot of the symptoms in myself, and I’m recognizing more and more how they keep me from getting things done. Here is what I have to do sometimes when it gets really bad:

    1) Company. Even if the person is not helping me pick up, by talking to them I can focus on one task, carry it out, and then go on to the next, instead of wandering around like a headless chicken picking things up, putting them down, wandering off to clean another room, etc. No one in my life really understands this. My girlfriends are all, “Why would I want to sit around and watch you do things?” I dunno, because you love being in my company? Or failing that, so that you’re not tripping over my crap constantly? How do you think kiddo would react if you said, hey, why don’t I come in and talk to you while you clean your room? And then you could both take joy in the fact that it got done and wow doesn’t it look nice! Wouldn’t it be great if it looked like this all the time! (Yeah right.)

    2) Having a list of multiple items that I can pick from. If I were your daughter, I too would procrastinate and resist my one assigned daily chore. If I had three things, I could pick one, do it, cross it off, and feel good about myself, and pick another one tomorrow. But HAVING to do one particular thing that I didn’t pick? That’s the quickest way to send my inner five-year-old into a tantrum of “I WON’T AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”

    3) My mother rode me hard in terms of putting stuff away and getting things done and while I hated it at the time and resisted it with every fiber of my chubby little being, I think that inculcation is the only reason I have any organizational skills whatsoever at this point, and the only reason I haven’t (to date) been buried in my own mess. I just wish she had tried to be a little more loving and creative about it (as it sounds like you are being) instead of as shaming as she was. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to separate out the shame and perfectionism from the real pleasure of accomplishing something. But as much as my inner five-year-old doesn’t like it, I do think you are right about the consistency and not letting up on it. I’ve seen adults who didn’t get that training, who were either allowed as kids to be super messy or who had other people to pick up after them and I think it makes it extra hard later on when they have to live with others. You can see the results on that passive-aggressive notes blog every day, where roommates are always fighting about why didn’t you take out the garbage!?!?!?!?! And whose disgusting week-old pizza is sitting in the fridge?!?!?!

    I know this sounds ridiculous but Linda Goodman’s book Sun Signs has some great tips on motivating people based on their astrological sign. She was totally right about me when she said that earth signs are motivated by appeals to sensuality, like, oh, it would feel so nice to go to bed (versus sitting up for hours compulsively surfing the internet) and lie in the cool clean sheets and relax my sore shoulders etc. versus OMG Amy you are such a fricking idiot for sitting here for hours when it is so late go to bed right now! I can’t remember the tips for the other types but it really made sense to me at the time to address people with arguments that are going to appeal to them versus ones that leave them cold. There’s probably lots of other schemes that do the same thing — like Dawna Markova’s processing types from her book The Open Mind for example.

    And now everyone on the internet knows how to get me to do things — just tell me how good it will make me feel. Yep. 😉

  3. atheistwoman permalink
    July 2, 2009 3:22 am

    “Because, I am convinced that children are born defiant! ”
    I know you are in jest, but I would say that is a good thing ;-).

    “I love having a tidy home, and in my mind I know it is just not that hard or time consuming to tidy up, but I also often fight this horrid inertia, especially when things get to the point they are in that photo. I should take a picture for you of the amoeba-like pile of stuff that lives next to my desk; I attack it every so often and file things and throw away other things and still it grows.”
    “I can focus on one task, carry it out, and then go on to the next, instead of wandering around like a headless chicken picking things up, putting them down, wandering off to clean another room, etc.”
    OMG LOL!!!!!!!

  4. July 2, 2009 6:45 am

    I should take a picture for you of the amoeba-like pile of stuff that lives next to my desk; I attack it every so often and file things and throw away other things and still it grows.

    …instead of wandering around like a headless chicken picking things up, putting them down, wandering off to clean another room, etc.

    I could easily be the Exhibit A in the above.

  5. July 2, 2009 11:11 am

    You can see the results on that passive-aggressive notes blog every day, where roommates are always fighting about why didn’t you take out the garbage!?!?!?!?! And whose disgusting week-old pizza is sitting in the fridge?!?!?!

    Oh my god, I’m terrible about that. I leave stuff in the refrigerator at work and at home. At least I live alone so I don’t have to get the handwritten notes at home like I do at work.

  6. July 3, 2009 8:12 pm

    I took the picture down, because the other day she claimed she did not care, calling my bluff I guess, and today she is holding it against me. Must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.

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