Saturday, 27 October 2012

Does parenting include picking after your children?

Recently a Canadian mum's blog on the internet made news on BBC. This Canadian mum and her husband went on strike, refused to clean up after their two daughters aged 12 and 8. Then they took pictures of the deteriorating state of the house and posted it on the blog, which became a rage.

Obviously many more parents including me, have a hard time trying to ignore the obstacle course which one has to endure, if entering a child's bedroom, the scene inside their rooms, which can be titled- "After the storm". The day after day frustration of trying to convince the children that this is not how one should live and scores of threats like- "I am going to stop doing your laundry" "No TV until you clean your room" is as familiar as seeing fruit peels, cores, mugs, plates and cereal bowls lying around the house, mostly near the television. How many times have I resolved that the rule should be no food while watching TV and most of the time I am the one who has allowed the rule to be broken. Again something which my daughter says I don't do very well- follow through with my threats and rules, am too soft, give in easily.

But the point that the Canadian mum made, was that chores should be clearly defined and the children's chores should consistently be done by them. All mums will agree that it is so much easier to put the cereal bowl away in the sink yourself rather than leave it there to dry for the whole day until the kid comes back from school to tell him to move it and hear the familiar- "Dont worry I will do it...after this...5 minutes," only to see it there until night time.

Another tip I read about, was that if the kid is supposed to take the trash out and doesn't do it even after prompting, put the trash bag in his room, he will remember to take it out next time. I must admit I haven't been able to do this one, have just gone ahead and done it myself but I can see that it does make sense.

So this Canadian mum's strike against the kids inertia, musn't have been easy, it must have been a trying time for her. She said on television that taking photographs and writing the blog kept her sane, as that way she had something to do.

Most of the time I don't go on strike, but just don't have the energy to do anything. Cooking, supermarket shopping, laundry, dishwashing and ferrying kids from activities takes priority, the house looking like a war zone is mostly the least of my worries. But the children's attitude to the increasingly chaotic state of their rooms and the rest of the house is one of complete non chalance. They seem to notice nothing. Having said that, it is a matter of great surprise that they do comment on how clean the house looks, if and when I finally go on a cleaning spree. Even if it is a backhanded comment like"Was the cleaner here?"

The kids too have their share of cleaning sprees but they are too few and far in between, to ensure that the house is livable for even a week. I remember now what my mother used to say to me time and time again when I was in school; since I seem to be saying the same thing to my kids- "Why dont you put things in their rightful place in the first place, then you won't have to go on this marathon cleaning?"

I never understood and nor do my kids..... so packed lunch boxes pile on in the rooms before they finally come down to the kitchen, the clothes lay strewn around before finally making their way to the laundry box and shoes remain under the shoe rack until the traffic jam requires a massive clear out, abandoned stationery, report cards,  chocolate wrappers and certificates all seem to get the same respect  and as a parent, one has to take a step back, remind and nag until it gets done.

Strangely I remember mum asking us to be tidy as children,(I used to get the prize, a five star chocolate for making my bed every morning, my brothers usually missed a day or two) but I dont remember the house as being untidy. The memories are all of exciting times- the overturned garden chairs making the drawing room into a ship and the double mosquito net being the tent in the forest hunt!

Tidy houses don't make for exciting make believe settings, I presume!

So an untidy house is something I live with because when the kids are gone I will miss them and the mess they make. I remember how my mum used to yearn for a clean and tidy house when we were all in school and at home, but how unhappy she was, when the house was clean but empty. So a messy nest for the time being will have to do!

Parenting, most people agree can be both physically and emotionally exhausting but enormously satisfying most of the time.