Thursday, September 2, 2010

helping

Two weeks ago I decided to let the little boys "help" with the weekly cleaning hour (the "white tornado" in our family). As you know, I've been super enthusiastic about doing the "Flylady" system for cleaning around here, and this weekly white tornado is a fairly new thing. I love it (really!), but I'm very much the type of mama to want to do such a thing on my own, move through the house quickly, with much focus and intent, and not to include the little ones. The first few weeks, that is how I tried to do it--I would ask Ken to take the boys outside or to the park so I could clean. But on the other hand, didn't I say back in January that I want "helping" to be the family theme for the year? And didn't I say that I want the boys to have more opportunity to make and do for themselves? And wasn't I just thinking that I want to teach them to do real things? Yes to all of these things. Moreover, Dieter was really asking me if he could help. And Rainer always wants to do what his brother does . . .

So, I let them help. And you know what? It has been awesome. Not only did they enjoy themselves, but it turns out that they can really help me! Dieter's favorite part was cleaning fingerprints off the wall with a Magic Eraser. Both boys like running the broom and the dry Swiffer. Both boys retreat when I run the vacuum, then come back out again when I'm done (they dislike the noise). Both boys are enthusiastic about dusting and batting down cobwebs. I am so surprised--both by how much they can really help with and also that I was able to pull it off personally. I think letting them help more, even though it takes longer or I might not get the house as clean, is a huge growth area for me. And I'm proud of myself for moving in the direction I want to be moving. And to celebrate and encourage their continued helping, I bought them both little brooms. They arrived this week, and oh how excited they are! It will still be nice, I suspect, to do an occasional White Tornado all on my own, but how sweet it is to have my little ones by my side.

Editing to add: ack! I just read the package and realized those Magic Erasers are toxic! I know some of you might be concerned. No, we won't be buying those any more. It's a shame because they work so well and are fun to use. Dang!

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And also, thank you so much for your warm response to my article in Rhythm of the Home! It felt fantastic to find that others are like-minded. I suspected there were others out there that share my situation and have similar feelings about it all. It's so nice to find such support in all of you.

14 comments:

Basia said...

My almost 3 year old son has recently started to help me around the house too. It all began when he got over his fear of the vacuum cleaner - he started wanting to push the vacuum with me. It took twice as long to vacuum the house, but was twice as much fun. Now, throughout my day I constantly hear him say 'I help you Mummy.'It's taking some getting used to but I love the fact that he wants to be part of my day and doesn't just ask me to play with him.

muffinmoon said...

My little one retreats really quickly when I get the vaccuum cleaner out too! I imagine it's a bit like facing a dragon as it's so much bigger than him and really growls.

Carrie said...

Toxic or not, I LOVE LOVE the magic eraser bars! I did just have a long conversation about using your natural cleaning recipes though as part of our routine. I think teaching cleaning as a" routine" event is sometimes hard because the adults get stressed over the chore. I picked up a copy of the Flylady book for my office to loan out to tenants and need to get to the library to check it out for myself.

Shannon said...

Hi! I loved your recent article in Rhythm of the Home. I have been on a mission this entire year to "reduce clutter to create space" and it has been amazing! Happy day to you!

(p.s. I wrote a little piece in that beautiful magazine, too... http://rhythmofthehome.com/autumn-2010/mama-art-journaling/)

barbara said...

my little ones love to help. the big ones? not so much anymore:o)
i'm sure you already know this of this place, but they have a nice sellection of child-sized cleaning tools.
http://www.montessoriservices.com/store/?utm_source=adwords_brand&utm_medium=ppc&gclid=COCqv_C266MCFdJL5Qod6DmA2Q

Rain said...

I use natural cleaning agents for everything EXCEPT my magic erasers. I will not give them up. I just make sure the children don't use them.
I haven't been posting as much due to computer problems but wanted to let you know how much I appreciate what you write and share here.
Blessings!

Sara said...

I try to include my kids, too, even though it is more work for me. Mine especially love to dust the wood furniture with a little lemon oil, and wash the windows with the non-toxic window cleaner spray. Needless to say - my windows are all streaky!

erin said...

mary beth - i know, those erasers are awful...i believe they aren't even sold in some places because they contain illegal chemicals. oh my! norwex has a similar product without the chemicals...might be something to look into if it works for you...(or maybe a sponge would work equally as well!)

alyssa spring said...

I've been trying to let my kids help too....a little harder but it usually makes everyone a little happier. :) Sometimes I give the kids a spray bottle with water and a little vinegar and let them dust and wash windows...the LOVE that. :)

Anonymous said...

Loved your article in the magazine. Such nice photos accompany it too. We too have been on a decluttering streak. It takes so log to do it right but once it is done I am sure it will be worth it.
CathyT

Debs said...

Yes. I read your article too and really empathised with it. At my daughter's previous school, we were often invited to other family homes where everything was brand new. The mums seemed to always be talking about their kitchen makeovers, extensions and moving into new houses and completely renovating them in no time at all. When we moved into this house which is an old semi-detached ex-council house we could not afford to redo it all. Every time I bumped into another Mum I got asked 'how's the house coming along' and I was embarrassed to invite people round! I have had to decorate it over the years on a very tight budget. Some people have commented that they like the country style but that it doesn't really suit this style of house. I've thought about that but think that it is not just a house, it's a home and reflects the style and personality of the family. So now I don't worry what others think. It is our home and we'll make it what we want.

Karen said...

as a Montessori teacher, i applaud you letting them help! and yes thanks for "erasing" the chemicals! icky! ;-)

Andrea said...

How wonderful! I am amazed, because my boys hate anything that appears like "work" (we tried having them set the table for a long time, but the struggle was so unpleasant for everyone that I gave up!). I just got the FlyLady book from the library (I tried her website thing a few years ago, but didn't get very far)...I need to get over my own resistance to the very idea of cleaning and housework as something old-fashioned and anti-feminist (I still feel that way, but a messy house is a messy house). I loved your Rhythm of the Home article and read it twice...thank you for all the wonderful ideas and advice for changing one's attitude toward one's house (mine has been aggravating me a lot lately). I am going to give it a try!

Sarah said...

I just read back that somebody else told you about the harshness of the magic erasers. I was surprised, but they even suggest adults to wear gloves when using them. We've stopped buying them altogether. Do you remember the book "Heaven on Earth" that you recommended? I bought it and it talks a lot about how to get the kids involved in cleaning and it was very inspirational for me, a lot of being more old school and not always using technology. Works well with my boys. Thanks for sharing what is working in your busy home ;)