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Letting Go of Mommy's Perfect House

A funny thing happened tonight while we were getting ready for bedtime: my four-and-a-half year old son picked up his toys willingly. This strange event has been happening frequently and I'm not sure if it's because he's been playing house with his little sister or if he suddenly feels a sense of responsibility. I've always wondered how amazing it would be to have my kids actually clean up without being prompted OR threatened OR bribed. When it finally happened I was shocked by my initial thought, "I'll just tidy that up when he goes to bed." Why on Earth would you want to tidy up the organization your son did with his own toys? I know, I know. I feel bad even writing about it. Is anyone going to be coming over to my house to see the way Brennan chose to clean up his toys? No; to be quite frank it doesn't matter if the Queen of England was coming over. Brennan cleaned up those toys, Brennan arranged them on my nicely alphabetized bookcase. My nicely alphabetized bookcase that no one really notices besides me. Oh and did I mention that I categorize them too? As I was walking over to the bookcase to put the toys back where they really belonged another thought crossed my mind, "How will he feel when he wakes up the next morning to find that his carefully put together toys have been put away in their 'proper' place?" And with that thought I started to ponder the life lesson that he may take with him if I started to impose my opinion of what a perfectly tidy house looked like. Would his little ego be squandered because of my need for order? Yes; yes it would since he had me come to look at his job well done several times before getting tucked into bed. I've left his nicely arranged toys where he left them. His sense of responsibility is far more important than my desire for this perfectly tidy house. After all, the tidiness would only last through the night until morning's first light and the kids' first giggles of the day. I think that letting go of our desire for perfection as mothers could be the seeds of responsibility for our children as they become adults. It's our job to raise able adults. Even if it shows up as their toys organized by them in a childish manner or their clothes folded messily laying in crates; it's the way my son is figuring out responsibility and work ethic in the adult world that he lives in. Sure it drives me a little crazy on the inside but as I sit here writing this to you, I look over at this bookcase, and I can't help but smile. This little boy, this sweet young man is showing me how responsible he is and how he desires to please me. I'm leaving everything the way he left it when he went up to bed for the night. This...this is a perfectly organized house now.
What things drive you a little crazy when your little one(s) is/are trying to be helpful around the house? Is there anything that you've changed about your expectations of what your perfect house looks like?
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  • Lord knows I’ve struggled with this!! But I don’t just struggle with letting my child “help”…I also struggle with leaving my husband alone when he “helps”!!

    Kristia on
  • I’ve learned a peaceful house is more to be prized than a tidy house. My kids will grow and develop much better if I don’t have unrealistic demands on them. It’s taken me about 3 years but I’m finally coming to realize that ‘a clean house’ has a much different definition when you are a mother of small children than it will have when they are older. If I can give them positive views of cleaning up rather than nagging and ‘correcting’ how they clean and just show enthusiasm for the fact that they are helping I believe it will go a long way in giving them the tools they need for not just a sense of responsibility but a much better and stronger foundation in who they are and my relationship with them.

    Melinda Beck Penrod on

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