Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cleaning with a Toddler {March of Kindness: March 3}

March of Kindness

Cleaning with a toddler can be fun or aggravating. I think that it has to do with whether you really need to clean and how much of the "cleaning" is going to require you cleaning up an even bigger mess later. My random act of kindness today is to clean the kitchen with my toddler. "What? You're making your kid help you clean and calling it an 'act of kindness?!" Yep.

At nearly 2 1/2 years old, the little guy is big into what he considers "helping." He loves "helping" me clean up his toys, feed the cats, make pizza or cookies, fold the clothes, etc. The thing is, all of these "helps" end up taking three times as long and twice as much work as they would if I just did them on my own. But, the pride he takes in doing a good job is really worth it, in the end.

One job he has become increasingly interested in is cleaning the kitchen. This involves a bucket of water, vinegar, baking soda, and my NEW Skoy cloths. He usually stands at the baby gate that leads from the kitchen to the living room intently watching me dip the cloth into that bucket of water, then wiping the floor and cupboards. His gaze never leaves that cloth - he's mesmerized. I know what having him "help" me is going to involve:

ME: OK, first we put the cloth into the bucket, then we swish it around. (Insert demo here.) Then we very carefully get it out and squeeze it. Do you want to try. (Major head-nodding.) No, no. We don't splash, we have to be gentle. Yeah, stir it very gently. Now get it out---No! Stop! Oh, no! Don't take it all the way out! Stop swinging it around. Wait! Here, give it to me. Let me show you again.
...And again... and again... and again. Until I finally put the bucket on the stove because he hasn't washed a single thing, but the cloth has been dipped, swung around, and "squozed" a zillion times. My floor has more water on it than the bucket has in it. So, I shift gears. I give him the cloth and show him how to mop up the water with it I've now got two cloths out and I'm using one of them to soak up the pond that has formed before it heads under the refrigerator. Meanwhile, I have a toddler running through the puddle, stomping (of course) to make big splashes.

OK, the puddle is cleaned up and, in the process, my floor is semi-clean. I decide to just ignore all of the corners, under the table, etc. It's clean in the middle (and under the fridge.) Now it's time to wipe down the cupboard doors. I live with pigs, really. We have white cupboards covered with drips from coffee, juice, ice cream, etc. It's nasty and no one ever bothers to grab a sponge and just quickly wipe up the mess. I've tried everytrhing from yelling to going on strike. I'll never do the strike thing again - when I broke down and cleaned the mess after a month, it took me two hours to scrub the crud off of three cupboard doors, three drawer faces, the refrigerator, and the oven door - TWO HOURS!

I figured that my little guy would get the biggest kick out of wiping them down. It's at his level and, with one swipe, you can actually see it getting clean. I give him a quick tutorial in cleaning the cupboards and he tries it out. He loves this job! He's happily going at it, chattering about getting things "All CLEAN!" and helping. I encourage him by gregariously thanking him and telling him what a great job he's doing and how he's such a big boy. He exudes PRIDE! So, I start cleaning the stovetop and the wall above the counters.

Now, when I clean, I get into "the zone" and don't notice much. So, when little guy decided to open the cupboard that I keep the canned goods in, I didn't really notice. Maybe it's because that's where he plays "groceries" at when I cook dinner. Well, when the tower of cans taller than him got knocked down, I came back to reality (and the downstairs neighbor probably choked on her coffee - I hope she was awake!) Now I had to stop cleaning and get him to put the "groceries" away. Well, he had to clean them. Uh, OK. Well, you don't know where they were before you put them in your cart, maybe they do need some cleaning. So, I sat down on the litchen floor and washed cans of soup and veggies.  Not the cleaning I had envisioned, but little guy was happy and productive. I gave up on doing anymore cleaning, I'd just have to live with nasty cupboards one more day.

Now, I can't tell you just how much I didn't want to let him "help" me. The thought just sent shivers down my spine and gave me waves of nausea. But I was rewarded for my act of kindness today. Before his nap, all he could do was run to the gate every five minutes or so and peer into the kitchen for a second. Then he'd come, with his chest all puffed out, and tell me one of these:
  • I clean that mess!
  • All clean now!
  • I'm big boy, clean mess.
  • Oh, no! Daddy and Brubber make mess - I cleaned!
Yeah, I can go on, but it all boiled down to the fact that HE cleaned a big mess, that Daddy and "Brubber" made, all by himself because he's a big boy.I know that when he wakes up, he's going to be talking about it still. He'll tell anyone who will listen, including the cats. And, if he's listen to me enough, I'll have a new recruit in my battle to get my husband and oldest to clean up after themselves! He's already told one of the cats, who was sauntering through the kitchen and minding his own business, "No, Kee! You don't make mess! You clean mess up!"

So, my random act of kindness today was to ask my toddler to help me clean the kitchen. I didn't complain when I had to clean up a puddle in the kitchen, I even smiled a little when I saw the look on his face as he splashed through said puddle. My little one has gained more self-esteem than I could have imagined. He learned that he can do something that big people usually do. And, hey, I have a cupboard full of the shiniest canned goods in Michigan!
Proud as a Peacock by Mark Melnick


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Does it make you feel better or worse to know that I go through the same thing with my preschooler? ;) I understand completely - Kieran asks all.the.time. to help me "clean," and then I have to clean up after him. This was a very kind act mama - thank you for sharing!

Not So Average, Hippie Mommy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My 15 month old loves to help water the garden, clean up the yard, sort laundry, etc... It's so cute.
I also babysit my 3 year old niece while my sister is in school and she helps me with basically everything. She knows how to push the laundry basket down the hall, put the clothes in the washer, start the washer (I have to put in the detergent), and then switch it over to the dryer turn the dryer on and take it out when it's done! Then she loves helping me fold too! I love it! haha. She helped me clean the entire fridge out once without getting distracted and she also hangs up all my diapers by herself when I line dry them without getting distracted!

Acrophile said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love it. I actually teared up reading this. It's great! I constantly let my 2 year old "sweep" and "clean" with the Swiffer, and she's so proud of it! We do clean up (or help clean up) our own messes around here (not that things are clean per se, but an actual "mess" made gets cleaned right away), so even the 4 year old knows that pride of being big and helping with the messes. :)

Erin said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is so sweet!! It is a good reminder to me to try to make more time to let my just-turned-three yr old "help" me with chores. I did this more with my oldest child and need to get back to it!

Tina said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

my 3 and 5 year olds like to help me clean too! lets hope they carry it on when they are teenagers!

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is so sweet. Isn't it funny how they want to help so much at this age? I always want to encourage that because when they get older maybe, just maybe they'll have a marginally better opinion of helping out if it was reinforced as a positive thing when they were younger. Well, I'd like to fool myself into thinking that. It helps me with my patience. Do you think this was also a kindness act to you because you were able to step back from the task and just be with your toddler? That's a gift to be with your kids without worrying about anything else.

Keep up the great MOK posts! :)