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Erin Spatz: Cleaning Day

  • Tuesday, August 13, 2013

  • Updated Monday, September 23, 2013 11:31 am

For as long as I can recall, Mondays have been my cleaning day.
I do the majority of the actual deep cleaning (okay, all of it. )
All that I ask the kids to do is to clean up their rooms and their play room. Actually, 'clean' may be too strong a word.
Really, I just want them to put all of their stuff away.
During the school year this happens on a Sunday evening, but in the summer we do it on Mondays.
There is a large amount of complaining anytime I ask them to get started.
The complaining that happens in the summer is really ridiculous.
I would say it's more like a wailing and gnashing of teeth. It's one groan away from ashes and sackcloth.
This past Monday I sent them upstairs to get started. I reminded them why we do it on Mondays.
It frees up the rest of the week for fun things and we get all our chores done in one day.

(Insert wailing and gnashing here.)

About 10 minutes into what should have been cleaning time, I heard what sounded like a hippo about to fall through the ceiling.
 I came out of the bathroom that I was cleaning to find out that in fact it was not a hippo, but four very loud children arguing.
This happens every single Monday.

I have yet to figure out how to get them to work together without a war breaking out.
That was it. I had reached the limit of my patience.
I felt like the task I had asked them to complete was simple and fair.

I did not play with a single toy from their play room.
Nor, did I sleep in any of their beds that needed to be made.

I went upstairs. Actually, I stomped. I sent everyone downstairs to sit on the couch in silence, without the TV or any form of entertainment.

And this is exactly what I said to them (be forewarned, this was not my best parenting moment):

“If y'all cannot get along to clean this playroom, then I will clean it. But, since I am going to clean I will be locking you out of it. I will be moving all of your toys, Wii andTV into the garage where you will no longer have access to them.
What was once the playroom, will now be referred to as Mom's office.
I have always wanted an office, so thank you for giving me one.”
Needless to say my tone of voice was not nice.
And even as I was saying it, I knew it wasn't nice.
All I was trying to do was be mean and make them a tiny bit afraid that I would actually do that.

While all four of my children sat on the couch crying and begging for another chance to clean, I came up with another plan.
I gave them the chance to clean up their spaces, but took away TV privileges and computer time for the day.
They cleaned the playroom and their rooms with a lot less fighting.
They still fought, but it was better.
Once they were finished I thought the reality of no TV or computer would set in, but it did not.
Instead, they seemed to be calmer and more inventive.
They played together and didn't argue.

For the rest of the day they were entertained by one another.
With the exception of Chandler who occasionally would asked me if she was still grounded, no one complained about their punishment.
I think Chandler just liked the idea of being grounded with the older kids.

But while I loved the sound of them playing and enjoying each other, if I am being completely honest it made me a bit mad.
I handed out what I thought was a pretty good punishment, and no one seemed to suffer.
My consequence did not seem to do anything, except make them more creative and like each other.
It also made me feel worse about my words and actions.
I want my kids to enjoy each other. I don't expect them to always get along.
I have two brothers and a sister, so I get the need for space sometimes.
But part of the reason I had four was so they would always have someone to play with.

However, I don't want to be the worst mom ever with my words or actions to make that happen.
I felt and still feel bad about my behavior.
And what's worse is that I still don't know how to get them to complete a task without fighting.

Parenting is so hard and the answers are hardly ever easy.
Just like the kids, all I can say is that I am continuing to learn.  
And when I mess up, I try to learn from that and do better next time.

Because with kids, there will always be a next time.

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