I like a clean house. I can actually feel my anxiety go up or down depending on my perception of how clean my house is. I vacuum every day. I clean before and after cooking. I have actual laundry days. I do NOT do knick-knacks and trinkets. I do, however, do children and animals, so basically all of my efforts are in vain. Its like standing at the bottom of a 12′ hole while it’s pouring rain and the walls are sloughing off. Also there are 5 horses with their butts hanging over the hole. Also I’m trying to keep it clean with a roll of off brand paper towels and a spork. I don’t like to use the term OCD to describe my affinity, it’s so overused. I can’t compare my little issue to someone who’s life is seriously effected by their illness. I do not have a compulsion, I just don’t like to sit in someone else’s pee, which I don’t think is unreasonable. I should say I didn’t think it was unreasonable before I had sons. Because I now sit in someone else’s pee on a daily basis. All this time I thought that NOT putting the seat back down was the laziest thing a boy could do in the bathroom. “You think that’s the laziest?! Hold my beer!” Says my sons, their friends, my husband’s GROWN ASS sons, and anyone else under 30, with a penis, that comes to my house (I drew the age line to leave my husband and my stepdaughter’s husband out as they are well trained.). I have literally stood in the bathroom with both of my sons and 2 friends while I demanded to know who’s pee I just sat in. And they look at me like I’M making things awkward! Ok, so I could have pulled my pants up first, but again, sat in pee over here people!
A big part of parenting is helping your children to become worthwhile adults. How you speak, how you treat people, how you clean a bathroom. From talking to some friends I feel like I might be a little late to the game with the chores part. My kids (or my master manipulators, as I refer to them in therapy) have somehow convinced me that they are incapable of even the simplest task. I remember when Alex was about 10, and I asked him to get the clothes out of the dryer and toss them on my bed, then put the clothes in the washer into the dryer. He looks up from the couch and says “If I do all that, what are you going to do all day…?” When he got out of the hospital we had a long talk about his attitude. Kidding. But that was an eye opener for me. They have no idea what it takes to run a household. They have no idea how the food gets there, gets cooked, gets cleaned up. They have no idea the work that it takes just to keep things (relatively) sane around here. I have done all of us a disservice, which I’ve been working to remedy.
Years ago, when I worked at True Value Hardware, a middle aged man came in and asked for help picking out bathroom cleaners. Turned out he needed everything that was required to clean a bathroom, and a description of what those things did. When he asked me what to do with a toilet brush I was like, “Um…haven’t you cleaned a bathroom before…?” No. He had not. Ever. Cleaned a bathroom. In retrospect I wish I had asked more questions, or maybe gotten pictures for some kind of “scared straight” pamphlet for my kids. Like meth mouth only with black mold and soap scum. Obviously cleaning isn’t really an innate ability. I don’t remember being taught to clean, but I must have picked it up somehow. The kids have no desire to “pick it up” on their own (literally or figuratively), so lessons are obviously in order. The kids (all 3 of them) and I are opposites when it comes to our home decorating tastes. I am a purger. I do not like stuff. I get rid of everything. I’m really good at going through it though, I only get rid of really important stuff like half the time. The kids are hoarders. Maybe all kids are. The boys keep everything. Old toys, magazines, holey socks, candy wrappers, jeans that are 2 sizes too small. I have to sneak in there and go through things in the dead of night. I do that a couple times a year and usually walk out with 3 giant garbage bags filled with their precious belongings. Which they have never noticed. Never. And I’ve been doing this since they were babies. K also keeps everything. But unlike the boys, each of those things has a story, a meaning and a memory. She will dump out her stuffed animals and look frantically for “the lion, not that one, the one with some whiskers missing, my grandma gave it to me when I was little, she got me the lion and a chapstick and some ice cream. I need to find it.” Shit. “Well, I may have given some of your things to kids that don’t have toys. I have never seen you play with it so I thought it would be ok to get rid of some of your stuffed animals. A few. To make room. They’re gone though, some other kid who really loves them is playing with them right now. Do NOT look in the trunk of my car….” The problem with being the purger in a house full of hoarders is that they think you don’t value their stuff. You would not believe the faces I get when I give away a stuffed animal that they won in a claw machine 3 years ago. Or that my husband makes when I throw away his list of passwords. Don’t even get me started on art projects. I mean if my child creates something, on their own, that they are proud of, I will happily display it. But do I need to display every piece of school work where they traced an uppercase Q in yellow? Yes. Yes, I do. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had to use all of my acting talent to freak out when the magnets fail on the fridge and all of the stuff on the side falls in to the recycling bin. Thank GOD they saw those before someone took the recycling out.
While I know that my kids aren’t going to just magically learn how to disinfect a toilet, I put these things off. Because I am really, really bad at letting my kids make mistakes when I could just do it and not have to deal with the mistake, or the learning, or the mess. It’s very hard for me to let go of things, and trust someone else with it. I already KNOW how to do it, so just let me. Until the next time I’m stomping around because no one does shit around here but me and no one will help me with anything and why don’t you people get up and clean something and what do you mean you don’t know how?! Oh. As things come up I’m slowly teaching them to care for themselves. Alex is actually a decent cook, K wants to help with everything, Ryan will probably always live in filth, but he’s pretty good at taking direction when I demand it.
For Christmas this year we got K a baby bunny. Her name is Snowflake Snowangel Hale. Or as we all call her: The bunny. I haven’t had a lot of bunny experience, so I basically treat her like a cat, and google stuff I’m not sure of. She’s very sweet and tame, and mostly housebroken. She’s only 3 months old now, so I figure mostly is pretty good. Thank God for hardwoods. The bunny has added more responsibility and more chores to everyone’s plate, and I was REAL clear that it would be EVERYONE’S plate. The occasional free flying rabbit raisins belong to everyone equally. The other day I walked into the living room and Ryan is talking to K, “Well you just put water on it and the smell goes away…” immediate sinking feeling. “Ryan, what are you putting water on?” “The bunny peed on the couch, so I was just putting water on it.” Confusion. “Why was the bunny on the couch?! And water does NOT make it go away.” Confusion some more. “But that’s what you do… You get it wet.” And here we go with cleaning not being an innate ability. I explained to him that I use water and SOAP to clean most messes. And it doesn’t work on things like couches, and that’s why the bunny isn’t allowed on furniture. At this point Ryan does a slow pan of the couch, and I notice many, many spots that I always thought were caused by the wear and tear of having 17 kids. This explains so many things. The streaky bathroom mirror. The plastic cups that smell like chicken grease and slip right out of your hand when you get them from the cupboard. The joke we make about Ryan washing with “onion soap.” So the next time I have a job to do I’m going to slow down and teach him. Step, by step. “Not like that. No. What are you doing? NOT WATER. oh my god. Stop, stop, stop! give me that. Go ride a bike or something.” Ok I really will teach him. When he’s a little older, he’ll do it perfectly then.
Oh! If anyone is interested: Super comfy couch for sale. Lovingly broken in. One cushion has extra squish. Brown with darker brown and lighter brown areas. $50 OBO.