Cleaning house with a four year old is like pulling teeth, if the person whose teeth you’re pulling keeps jamming the pulled teeth back into his bloody gum holes while also running around the room naked and screaming fart jokes at the top of his lungs. It’s kind of an exercise in futility is what I’m saying. And it’s the reason we don’t have a Christmas Tree up yet, because Niko’s been promising to clean up his toys for two weeks now with zero follow through… or he’ll clean up a thing and then get distracted and start playing and then toss the original cleaned thing all over the floor along with a fine layer of shredded tissue paper and also a bunch of mashed up Pringles crumbs or something else nasty. “Why don’t you help him,” you might ask. I have tried! And I either end up doing all the work SOMETIMES WHILE HE WORKS TO UNDO IT, or else he gets mad at me because I’m doing something wrong and seriously pissing him off and throws a fit. Either way, almost nothing gets done except we both get hostile and gassy.
Our living room is currently reasonably clean (Nesko even took all the cushions off the couch and vacuumed them because he is my hero) with a few small things needed to make it Decorating/Company ready. Or it was. And then I spent most of today 1) making cookies and 2) cleaning the bathroom and Niko seized that opportunity to scatter toys all over the place and pull a bunch of leaves off my house plant and scatter them around the floor.
I guess he’s just most comfortable LIVING IN A GOD DAMNED FILTH HOLE OR SOMETHING.
Anyway, I was cleaning the bathroom today and got all done except for taking out the garbage and sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor. I took a break to take a shower and then run to the store so the floor could dry before the sweeping. The bulk of our cleaning products are currently stored in a plastic milk crate in the bathroom and I shoved them out into the hallway outside the bathroom so the floor under it could have a chance to totally dry and then I hopped in the shower. The thought flitted briefly through my head that I should perhaps put the cleaning supplies someplace else, someplace Niko couldn’t get at them. But I banished that thought immediately. HE IS FOUR, I scolded my baser instincts, HE KNOWS BETTER.
I was wrong.
I am a fool.
I need to trust my baster instincts.
I took a lovely shower in a clean bath tub, got out. I went into my bedroom to get dressed and discovered a crayon in the middle of my bed. I called Niko in to put it away and when he took it from me, I noticed that his hands were cold and wet.
“Your hands are gross and wet,” I said. “Did you have an accident? Did you make a mess?”
He hesitated and then said “YES. I did make a mess. But it was on ACCIDENT. It LOOKS like it was on PURPOSE but I ASSURE YOU it was ON ACCIDENT. I did not do it on PURPOSE.”
I noticed that his pants were soaking wet.
I walked, naked, into the living room to take stock immediately. And internets, it really did look like he’d made the mess on purpose. The coffee table was covered with wooden trains, soapy water, and wet play dough. Also: remnants of his lunch, and soaking wet tissues. Do you know what happens when playdough gets soaking wet? It turns into gooey snot, super slick and gross. And it was smeared all over his trains and the table. and he’s tried to clean it up with foaming hand soap (taken from the crate of cleaning supplies), tissues, and half a bagel. Why use a bagel to clean up a mess? I don’t know… because he’s four?
That’s my answer to every baffling thing he does, by the way. “Because he’s four.”
The playdough smeared into the cracks and crevices of his trains was bad enough. Adding the water made it even worse. But squirting the foaming hand soap everywhere? Goddddddddd. And he apparently dropped the bottle and cracked it, leading to even greater messes… stealth messes… messes discovered later.
One of my big parenting things, one of my personal parenting rules I try to follow, is to not yell at Niko when he tells me that he’s made a mess or had a problem– especially if he comes to me to tell me about it or ask for help. This is a hard rule to follow because it’s so, so tempting to give in to anger and holler, or to ask WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR or WHY DID YOU DOOOO THATTTTTTTT (because he’s FOUR, duh) or remind him that YOU KNOW BETTER THANNNN THISSSSSSSSSS. I am, of course, not perfect with this. But I try. And the main reason I try is that I WANT HIM to come to me when he’s made a mess or has a problem. Because quite frankly, I’ve seen how he handles cleaning up his own messes (it is TERRRRRRIBLLLLLLLLLLE) and while I know that he’ll get better at physically wiping up spills, the messes he makes will get more complicated as he gets older. And I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help when he’s older and his messes include failing classes, crashing cars, STIs or unplanned pregnancies, anything like that. I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help, knowing that he can count on me to support him.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean that I protect him from consequences. I cleaned up his table mess and I’m cleaning up his trains, but those trains are going into time out for a while. I want to be able to help him, I want him to turn to me, but yeah… he’s going to be dealing with consequences. That’s another parenting goal of mine, a guiding rule.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got these pliers and somebody needs to clean these torn up leaves off the carpet.