Clean up


Trying to get my kids to pick up their toys is a daunting task. I struggled with this for a long time. Recently we seemed to have finally gotten into a good routine…and combined with the multiple safety measures I had installed to prevent disaster. But there is still the occasional day of defeat, where things spiral out before I can stop it and the family dissolves into an emotional cesspool of misery and frustration. Unfortunately, today was one of those days.

5:15. Try the color game. Start with asking them to pick up anything that’s pink. Ask Urpling to put the large pink dog on her bed. Sasquatch insists it is hers. Shrieking and screaming and crying occur. I count to five, go and tell Sasquatch that the puppy belongs to them both and that I asked Urpling to put it away.

5:17. Before I can say another color, Sasquatch puts her Dora doll and Boots doll in her room. Urpling grabs them and plays with them. Sasquatch dissolves into tears. I count to five, ask Urpling to put them back, and remind Sasquatch to ask nicely and then talk to me if Urpling isn’t listening. King Toot plays quietly among the rubble that is our living room. I give up on the color game as they aren’t listening and Urpling doesn’t know her colors yet.

5:18. After cleaning so hard for 3 minutes (insert sarcasm font here), the girls take a break on the floor and hide underneath a bunch of pillows. At least they aren’t screaming anymore. King Toot sits giggling.

5:23. Finally convince Sasquatch to put the pillows away. Try to make it a race…who can pick up the most toys? Bad idea, as in her rush she takes one out of Urpling’s hands and Urpling dissolves into tears. In the meantime, King Toot starts chewing on an electrical cord.

5:27. I give up on games. Sasquatch is finally on a roll, having been cleaning for about 4 minutes straight. Urpling has spent those 4 minutes picking up a toy, playing with it until I tell her to put it away and then slowly crawls to the toy bucket. Rinse and repeat. Abby is now my favorite. (See my post on who is my favorite child here) KingToot proceeds to pull the toys Sasquatch put away back out.

5:31. Sasquatch is no longer cleaning but running around with a pink wand singing about true love at the top of her lungs. Urpling is following her around with butterflies. King Toot is now playing silently in the girls’ room. Must go investigate immediately.

5:34. Convince the girls I will guard the butterflies and wand (Which I was informed was actually a microphone) if they will keep picking up. King Toot rediscovers the video cabinet and proceeds to dump VHS tapes on the floor.

5:36. Both girls actually pick up for 2 minutes…at the same time. King Toot takes more toys out of the toy bucket.

5:38. Sasquatch is definitely my favorite as she is still cleaning but Urpling finds a flashlight and runs around shining it into people’s eyes. King Toot is quietly chewing on a stuffed animal.

5:39. Counting to five is forgotten as I finally get annoyed with Urpling’s refusal to pick up more than one toy every five minutes. Something to the effect of, “That’s it! You need to pick up now or…(suddenly grasping for a threat that applies to the situation and I will actually follow through on and finally come up with the lame) I will get upset”. Not my finest hour.

5:42. The girls are now trying to wrestle. I don’t know what is more shameful…their inability to pick up or how lame they are at wrestling.

5:44. Hitting desperation I finally resort to: “find one thing on the floor” when they do ask “where does it go?” Then they finally put it away. Sasquatch picks up blankets but amuses herself by hitting Urpling with them like a whip when she picked each one up. Urpling thinks this idea was fabulous and finds her own blankets. More chasing and giggling only now they are whipping each other.

5:46. Trying to get Urpling to pick up something is difficult. She can’t seem to understand simple instructions. It usually goes like this: “Urpling, pick up the doll by the couch and put it away.” Blank stare. “Urpling, pick up the doll by the couch.” She wanders the opposite direction. “Urpling, do you see the couch?” She looks at the couch. “Go to the couch.” She walks to the couch. “Now look at your feet.” “Now pick up the doll.” Then she finally spots the doll and picks it up. Repeat a few hundred more times.

5:48. Ask Sasquatch to put headband away and Urpling is supposed to put her toy away. After asking each one three times with no response both are given a time out while I count to five about fifty times to try and mellow before I do something rash.

5:51. Girls are now off timeout. King Toot is now my favorite as he has not destroyed anything for 10 minutes. The girls are now picking up. Urpling takes a break and King Toot starts pulling her hair so she decides sitting is not a good idea and picks up again. Well played, King Toot.

6:00. Lose it. I finally yell and tell them that since they are unable to pick up their toys…that tonight the toy box and all the toys in it are gone for a week. They will also be going straight to bed after dinner as I can hardly look at them without feeling a mixture of anger and hurt. King Toot starts to follow me around wailing. He is finally banned to his crib for a few minutes as I am not calm enough to sooth him and he won’t take a bottle or food.

6:10. Guilt, defeat, failure. Living room is still not totally clean. Out of desperation and sheer bullheadedness I start cleaning up for the girls because I now refuse to let them go to bed with the house messy. Anger is finally calming down and the hurt comes through and I start crying. The girls are finally picking up…probably out of sheer concern for my mental health than any other reason.

6:15. The Living room is finally clean. At least one room is done. Fetch King Toot from his room and head to the girls’s room to clean that next. Praying for strength to somehow salvage this night. Sit the girls down and apologize for losing my temper. Tell them that I shouldn’t have lost my temper but they still will not be having their toys. If they can’t pick up their toys, they can’t play with them.

6:30. The house is clean and we sit down to eat. Things have finally calmed down.

Why do I share this? Because I think any parent has been there. This is more common than any of us would like to admit. With me it usually boils down to fatigue, the onset of illness, or that terrifying “time of month”. But as common as it is, there is never any excuse to lose control in front of your kids. I can’t change what happened but I can learn from it.


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