Friday, December 30, 2011

Thinking about the new year

Here we are, at the time of year when resolutions are made, a fresh start is begun and people are often thinking about how to make themselves better.

I usually make a few resolutions. I know people that don't out of principal, because it's something "everyone" does and "no one" ever follows through, so why bother. And I know people that journal or blog or post on Facebook all their resolutions in order to be accountable, then manage to track their progress.. at least for a while.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I usually have a resolution or three. Sometimes I remember them in February, sometimes not. Except during times when I was pregnant or breastfeeding, I usually resolve to lose weight or get in better shape. Last year my resolution was that this year I would not resolve to lose weight (meaning, of course, that I'd have lost it already). So this year I will not be making a new year's resolution to lose weight - even though some of the weight seems to have found me again. ;)

My one resolution, if I choose to call it that (depending on whether I'm currently siding with the pro-resolution types or the anti), is to make daily toy pick up a habit. I have been severely lax in teaching my children to pick up after themselves and to take care of their things. Two problems are resulting from said parenting failure. 1) My kids aren't taking responsibility for their own things and 2) I am going insane with the tasks of trying to keep this house in a reasonable state of tidiness.

Up until now, I have been bad about toy pickup because with small children, it really means a lot more work for me. I know there are probably magical parents out there with magical toddlers who learn to pick up their toys and do so happily alongside their mommies as she sings a fun clean up song. I am not that mommy. Clean up in my house goes something like,

"Ok everyone, time to clean up!" (pointing to each child in turn) "You can start with the stuffed animals. Yes, put them in the bucket. No, it doesn't matter which color. No, its ok if David's toys go in the red bucket, they just need to be in the buckets. And you, start with the Legos.... Yes, all of them. Ok, at least put them on the lego table in your room, we can sort them later. And I know the pile is already huge, so put them in the bins. Wait! Ella! Don't dump out the stuffed animals baby, we're cleaning up! Here sweetheart, can you put the animals back in? That's right! No, not out again honey. We're cleaning up. Grayson, you're supposed to be picking things up, not building a spaceship. Yes David, I know you're the only one cleaning up toys, but you're the oldest so you can handle it. Ella! Oh sweet girl, really, just go find Daddy and get your teeth brushed. I know you want to help, but dumping the puzzles out is not helping Mommy right now..." and so forth.

Once I've started the process, we see it through, but it tends to take a while and then they're late getting to bed and it's just... tiring. So I wind up leaving most of the mess until it really starts to get to me (or we have guests coming) and then I wind up doing most of the work myself because it's just easier.

The "its just easier" cop out is not usually a great long term strategy in parenting.

So I'm going to build clean up time into our nightly routine. Seems simple enough, the kicker is the follow through. I need to get everyone upstairs earlier than we do now so we have time to pick up. But imagine, things cleaned up at the end of the day. No legos to step on in the morning when I stumble out of my room. No piles of things to walk around. No dress up clothes scattered in the hallway. Things roughly in their places. Ahhh, the peace of a bit of tidiness.

It's something I need to work on for myself as much as them. I keep hearing these words echoing in my mind, although I can't remember where I read them, "Don't do anything that your children can do for themselves." That's an approach that I can really embrace. Not only do I want to teach them responsibility, I want the extra help! I haven't been great about it up until now, but hey, what's a new year for if not to try to improve :).

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