Projects, Parenting & Spray Bottles, Part Two


Date of Original Post: November 28, 2012

General home upkeep is also now an activity I do while Emilio is awake or around—I also don’t like tidying the house at night, and now that I have deemed it a daytime activity, I can be more engaged in the process of cleaning or organizing, while still being partially engaged with Emilio. I can give him some attention, by engaging in his play by asking him evocative questions, while at the same time accomplishing house care: sweeping, tidying up, etc. It’s only been a few days of this new approach, but so far I am encouraged by how much I’m accomplishing while still giving Emilio the attention he needs. Of course it helps that we have just returned from a trip, so we are both happy to be home--Emilio with a reinvigorated attitude towards his toys, and me with a reinvigorated attitude towards returning to my projects and organizing our home (partially in preparation for the next wave of objects from our past that Lucas will be carting back in the trailer and the fast coming tourist season.) 


House cleaning and organizing can also be a full-attention parenting activity. In other words a joint activity you can do with your child. One rare day I felt like mopping the floor to our house (like dishwashing, mopping is not on my favorite house chore--I strongly prefer sweeping or wiping down surfaces), and as I got out the mop and the spray bottle (filled with half vinegar and half water-a great natural and inexpensive disinfectant) I saw a glint in Emilio’s eye and I asked if he wanted to help. He wanted to be the one to spray the vinegar water on the tile floor while I mopped the area he sprayed. We both had a lot of fun and felt equally motivated to clean the entire floor this way. I felt a deep satisfaction at having a clean space, and all the more so because we had managed to accomplish and make fun, a chore that I had always found tedious. And I didn’t have to spend any precious alone time doing it. 

Wiping Surfaces

On another day, we decided we wanted to use the coffee table to draw, but it was dirty and needed to be cleaned. Again, I got out the spray bottle and a rag. I let him spray the entire table with the spray and wipe as much as he wanted, and then I added some finishing touches. After we were done, I felt like I could breathe better. I remarked at how nice it was to have the table all clean. I asked Emilio if he liked having it clean (hoping I could instill a cleanliness gene in him mentally instead of through DNA) and he said “yes.” And then I asked him why. And he said “because we sprayed and wiped it.” What he liked was not the result of table being clean, but the activity in itself, the experience of cleaning. Wouldn’t I keep the house cleaner if I saw it the same way?

Cleaning Up Toys

Another activity that can be done with full attention, and therefore becomes a good parenting moment and a good house care moment, is cleaning up toys. Now because the space we live in is a shared space by three unique individuals (Ping, covered in fleas, does not come in the house--which is the Mexican way with dogs) , it is easily overtaken by any one of us. I find that I feel happier at night if Emilio’s toys are already put away. I also think tidying up is a good skill for him to learn. Therefore, another one of the evening rituals I try to do is clean up toys as part of bedtime routine. I dangle the three books he will have for night time as a motivator, which usually works, unless he is so tired that he will resist just to resist. In which case I don’t ask him to clean up his toys in order to keep clean up time free of negative associations (you’ve got to pick your battles.) Ihave come up with an organization system, using various containers of shapes and sizes to help contain his toys. Therefore cleaning up becomes as much a sorting game as it does a chore. Even Emilio’s friends know which types of toys go in which containers. For example: the 1950’s white vinyl train case (from Ruth, my mother in law, who, on an overall life simplification jag, dispersed her impressive collection of vintage suitcases and train cases) holds the dolls and doll furniture (I guess some day we will get/make him a doll house), the metal Japanese Snoopy tin holds his collection of 1960’s and 70’s Fisher Price Little People, the cylindrical oatmeal tin holds his magnets (and becomes a great magnet toy in itself). My point is that cleaning up can be challenging and fun when it’s a sorting game. Sometimes as an extra motivator I add the challenge of competition-the point system. Every time someone puts a toy in a container I call out “I got a point. I got two points. You got a point” and so on. It’s just like a basketball game, but there’s lots of balls and we put them in the same hoop. This usually works in getting Emilio to put away his toys, but sometimes he still resists, and then his own internal motivator kicks in--he makes a new game where he finds creative ways (usually involving toes) to pick up the toys and put them in their appropriate container. It’s not as quick as my point method, but whatever works in the current circumstance is what’s best.


To be continued...


Note to reader: the power cord to my computer just burnt out on me, which means that I will not be able to charge my computer after it dies, which means I might be delayed in getting the next posts out until I can borrow or buy a new one. Yikes!