If You Clean It, He Will Come

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 0 comments

Keeping my home clean is a Sisyphean exercise.   As my children insist upon eating, wearing clothing and playing, my life is an endless cycle of dishes and laundry and toys underfoot.  I long for the day my sink is empty, the clothes are all in their rightful places (and not in a massive pile in the hallway), and my floor is cereal-free.  I’m pretty sure as  long as I have children, however, that day will never come.  In the meantime, I try to keep the chaos to a dull roar.

As a mother of three boys I feel it’s my responsibility to “train” them for their future partners.  I want them to appreciate a clean home, a livable environment, a pee-free bathroom.   Jack already understands that a clutter-free room is much more fun to play in than one choked with toys.  Understandably, though, he’s been resistant to his training.  Thankfully there are a few motivators that work well with him.

The Cleanest Month

For the entire month of December (and the better part of November), the simple statement that “Santa won’t bring you new toys if you don’t take care of the ones you have” works wonders.  Or “Santa will break his ankle trying to get to the tree if you don’t pick up your trains. You don’t want that to happen, do you?” is also good in a pinch.   Emotional blackmail or creative persuasion?  Whatever you want to call it, it gets Jack up and cleaning in a jiffy.  I still can’t believe how clean our living room and toy room were on Christmas Eve.  I should have taken photos.

Sadly, the Big Man only comes around a couple of months a year.  Every Boxing Day as my children are basking in the holiday afterglow, I am sad.  I know my trump card has returned to the North Pole, forgotten until next Thanksgiving.

This year, however, I discovered a wonderous thing: the Easter Bunny.  Somehow Jack got it into his head that EB was going to be hiding eggs all around the house as well as outside in the garden.   Since we used to live in an apartment with no outdoor access, we had always had our egg hunts in the limited space of our living room, and he assumed that we’d do that again.  I tried to explain that EB would rather leave his eggs outside, in our nice backyard.  Jack wasn’t falling for it.

The Motivator

See, we live in British Columbia now.  As much as the sun shone in Southern California, it rains here.  Jack knew there was a very good chance it would be wet on Easter, and we would once again hunt for eggs indoors.   So Jack took it upon himself to clean up for the Easter Bunny.

Once I realized what he was doing, I was all for it.  I suggested EB might want to explore the house and leave treasures in the boys’ bedroom and playroom, in addition to our living room.  Jack went about his business full-force, and on “Easter Eve,” my home was Christmas Eve-clean.

Worth cleaning for, evidently

Easter evening, as my children were slipping into chocolate comas and I stepped around broken eggshells and bubble wands, I felt that familiar sadness creep over me.  The Easter Bunny had returned to Easterville (or wherever he goes in the off season), and once again my children lost interest in keeping the house clean.

I’ve decided there needs to be another holiday worth cleaning for, at least to a five-year-old.  Perhaps Canada Day we could wait for Good Tim Horton to bring us Timbits if we’ve been Good Canadians.  Or for my US friends, perhaps Uncle Sam might bring apple pies to all the good American boys and girls.

Waiting for Tim Horton

My child is a cleaning machine if I give him the right incentive.  I’m willing to invent that motivation.  Who’s with me?

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