They create messes together, it’s what siblings do, and ours, if I may say so myself, are masters of mixing a menagerie of manipulatives in manic piles around our house; a line of thrift store chotchkies here, a pile of stuffed animals there, and your occasional four-puzzles-on-the-ﬂoor festival everywhere.
There are times I look in wonder at the creatively controlled chaos that comes from stacking cups in the kitchen alley, but mostly, I’m left to say “Girls, clean up. TOGETHER.” To which Amelia, our oldest daughter, puts things away faster than Hazel can continue to take them out.
We’ve taken note to the lack of “picking-up equality”, and look for ways to get Hazel more involved. It goes like this: “Girls, this needs to be picked up.” grumble, “but she won’t help.” Hazel runs around waving a towel, and then I say, “If you don’t pick this up, togetherrrrrr, I will start randomly taking your toys and keep them.” Ridiculous?
Amelia crouches down to Hazel and explains what Daddy meant, they collectively “Gasp”, put puppets on their hands, and make a game out of it. I’m 1:3 on that response.[sws_pullquote_left] We want them to work together, not for fear of losing something, but in hopes of gaining a greater sense of everyone’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses. [/sws_pullquote_left] I can’t help but connect my tactic with what is going on with our federal government and the “sequester”. I’m not going to play politics and pick a party to put people on the defensive and create an “echo-thread” of comments with nothing gained but an occasional “zing” that divides us, but, aren’t you tired of this? Seriously, it’s ridiculous, and doesn’t the sequester sound all to familiar to ultimatums we make with our kids? We’ve made a mess.
Our kids need to be held accountable. Do our consequences always reflect the behavior? No, we try, but sometimes it’s good to keep them guessing, and it can motivate them when the consequences aren’t clear. If I said “Clean up, or you’ll lose this-or-that”, they would decide whether they could live with-or-without said item.
Now, the other side of this is that we strive to teach our children the intrinsic values associated with doing what needs to be done. You clean up the house, not because you will lose a toy, but because it’s what we do, it’s how we respect our surroundings, possessions, and people we play with.
We mix the two in our house, depending on our patience levels. Ultimately, I’d like to come into a room and see the girls creating, destroying, and putting things away without prompts. If they have puppets help them? Great. That’s the same thing I’d like from our government, but without the puppets part. Okay, one zing.
Can we swallow our pride, share our power, and do what is “right” because it’s what’s best? What’s right? Good question. I guess that which helps rather than harms.
Hazel is the master of picking up plush toys, Amelia can organize, and we, the parents, are trying to teach them that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. We want them to work together, not for fear of losing something, but in hopes of gaining a greater sense of everyone’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
Andrew Meyer is a Special Education teacher from Madison, Wisconsin, whose wife’s job relocation changed their family roles and physical location. He's now a stay-at-home dad in Madison, Alabama, to two awesomely creative, sometimes challenging, and mostly sweet five and two-year-old girls who fill his days, nights, and in-between spaces. When with or without them, he writes, works-out, wonders, wishes he wouldn’t worry, wrestles with his wife’s commitment to her job, and listens to music. You can also find him at www.papasense.wordpress.com, on Twitter @papasense, and Facebook.