In the last two years, as Munchkin's toy collection has increased and the complexity of Monkey's toys has deepened, I've spent a lot of time picking up toys, sorting them and putting them away. Many of their toys come with various parts that end up all over the living room, or worse, Munchkin distributes them all over the house, as if she was a bee distributing pollen. Both kids like to "help" with the laundry, Munchkin loves to take out the trash and Monkey has mad cooking skills, thanks to the hours he's spent cooking with me. But cleaning up is not my strength and, as a result, I haven't consistently taught the kids to clean up regularly. Sometimes I play the clean-up song which inspires Monkey to move quickly, but it also leads him to obsess with the laptop, more concerned with replaying the song than me putting his toys away.
But lately, I've gotten more serious about teaching the kids to clean up. About two weeks ago, I took 70% of the children's toys and put them in my closet. I knew they had a lot of toys, but not until I carried them down the hall did I realize how many toys. The next morning, I lay in bed as my husband got up with the kids and I listened for their reaction to the enormous change to their toy corner. Neither child noticed. Nor did my husband or even my visiting mother.
Now that the toy corner is much emptier, I'm working on having them put one toy away before taking another one out. It's as much a change in routine for them as it is for me. I don't want to interrupt their playtime to clean up, but the more I think about the struggle I have to maintain things tidy, the more motivated I am to help them learn good habits early. I'm getting more consistent about picking up their dishes, putting dirty clothes in the hamper and teaching Monkey to make his bed. If they don't learn how to do it now, how will they know what they need to do to maintain a clean room and, in the far-off future, a clean house?
Every time the clock ticks closer to bedtime and I'm tempted to rush the kids to bed and put the toys away myself, I slow down and make time for the kids to put their toys aways. Then I close my eyes and pray that at least one of the kids turns into a neat freak. No matter how much I clean after the kids go to bed, I could still use a little help.