House Cleaning and Mary Poppins

Posted February 19, 2014 by Prairie Wife -

Around the Prairie Homestead keeping things clean can be a bit of a struggle! More often than not as I get done cleaning one area of the house and move on to another the Cowkids and Cowbaby are right behind me making it messy again. Most of the time I just let it go, and stick with the philosophy that whenever I clean, it is one less layer of dirt. I’m sure that by now you have realized that I’m a bit of a meany (read this as hard ass) when it comes to giving my kids responsibility. I firmly believe that as a mother it is my job to teach my children how to do things for themselves. My hope is that one day when they go out into the world, they can add something to our society, not spend their time taking something from it.

As soon as my kids can crawl they begin to help me put toys away. This usually means handing me toys or me taking their hands toy bucketsand moving it to the toy and then the bucket. Right around the age of one my kids can pick up toys. I help the process along by making sure that all of our toys are easy to put away, in buckets labeled with a picture and words. They help hand me clean silverware out of the dishwasher when they can stand (note: remove all the sharp knives first) and throwing away their own diapers is something most 18 month olds can do. By the age of three my kids are starting to put laundry away and can clean their own rooms with minimal guidance.

Now I am not going to lie, at first this process takes way longer than me doing it, and there are times when I want to claw my eyeballs out…but having done this a time or two I know that eventually it will make my life easier. Cowboy J and Cowgirl G have been cleaning their rooms and putting all their laundry away (including hanging up shirts and folding socks) since the tender young age of 5. It really is nice, and they feel so proud when the job gets done.

I also need to be honest and say that house cleaning day isn’t a process full of singing bluebirds and chipper mice. When Wed night rolls around it can get a little rugged. Wed has been house cleaning night around here for years, but I still get the eye rolls and whining when I tell them what day it is. They get their standard hour to relax and play when they get home from school, I think that wind down time is so  important. Then at 5:00 I announce it’s time to get their rooms clean. This gives them an hour before dinner to get it done. It should take them 15 to 20 minutes to get things picked up in their rooms, and then we work as a team to get the living room and playroom clean.

Anyone with children knows that the actual time spent “cleaning” their room completely depends on their individual personalities, their mood, and what phase the moon is currently in. Being the mean mom I am, they don’t get to join me for dinner until the work is done. You can also imagine that I walk by their rooms often to nag them to get grooving and give them warnings about their delicious dinner getting closer to being done. Without fail Cowboy J and Cowboy W are done in plenty of time to eat dinner, and Cowgirl G is pitching a fit in her room as we sit at the table eating. More often than not she is miraculously done within 10 minutes after we sit down to eat. It never changes; she always plays and dinks around until the very last minute. I’ve tried speeding up the process by spanking (doesn’t work), taking toys off the floor and giving them away (she acts like she doesn’t care), and yelling. But, with my recent journey into a “yell free” home I have decided to just back off. She knows the routine by now, and when she hears us say our dinner prayer over her screams, the next sound is usually toys being placed quickly in a plastic bucket.

Sometimes though, I like to be the nice mom. And if I’m having a mellow Wednesday morning I’ll put Cowboy W in front of the TV and pick up the kids’ toys by myself. Amazingly it usually takes me less than 30 minutes to get all 4 rooms clean, this is when I have to remind myself that having them do it is better for them in the long run, no matter how miserable it makes me. On the way home from school I’ll be extra tough and read them the riot act about it being housecleaning day. They drag themselves into the house and pout about their rough life. Only to open the doors to their rooms, and see them miraculously clean! The first time I did this Cowgirl G came running out and said “Mary Poppins was here!” We had recently watched the movie and she was fascinated by the toys picking themselves up. Cowboy J ran to his room and saw that his chores were all done as well. He had a better idea of what happened but went along with the game.

Mary Poppins LetterNow every few months when they come home and see their clean rooms they always shout “Mary Poppins came!” This last time Cowgirl G even took the time to write a thank you note to Mary Poppins. I still think that it’s important to make them do chores themselves but sometimes, it’s fun to just be the nice mom and have Mary Poppins stop by!

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