My husband and I recently hosted a cookout with some close friends of ours and their four children. Yes--I said, "four children!" We had a great time just chatting with one another, shooting the breeze, and cooking some really good food while our little ones played in the playroom. The playroom at our home is exactly what what it sounds like--a space for the boys to play, have a good time, and more importantly, to MAKE A MESS. But just know that when my boys are finished making their mess, they are responsible for cleaning it up. Our friends spent about four hours at our place, but when I went down to the basement to begin cleaning up later that night, I could not believe my eyes when I stepped into the room. IT WAS SPOTLESS! I thought the playroom would have looked like a tornado came through there, but every Lego, car, ball, Power Ranger, Transformer, and building block was neatly packed in its place. At that moment, the only thought I could gather was, "What the heck happened down here?"
Now I bet you're thinking maybe the parents went downstairs to straighten up a little before they left that evening, but you're wrong. The parents never stepped foot in the basement. That spotless playroom was the result of four well-behaved children, picking up and cleaning up after themselves. How often do our children clean up after themselves without being prompted? I'll help you out with this one.......how about.....NEVER!? Now it's one thing for a parent to try to straighten up after their kid(s) made a huge mess at someone's house, but it's another thing for the children to clean up on their own without being told to do so. I was floored. I absolutely could not believe the playroom had been straightened up almost as neatly as I would have done it!
Time and time again, we go and visit friends and family with our children, and leave the hosts with a huge mess to clean up. Our children take every single toy out of the bins, leave them on the floor, and by the end of the visit, there is barely space to walk through the playroom. Are you serious? Now, I will be the first to admit that my kids probably have too many toys. We probably have enough cars and action figures to open up a lucrative toy store, but that does not mean you should come to my house and leave my playroom in ruins. I let them play with all of their toys, because that's exactly what they are for. Not only that, but I teach my children to SHARE their toys. Not everyone is blessed and fortunate to have as many toys as they do. With that being said, I am getting pretty tired of the kids playing in the playroom with their buddies and just leaving my house in ruins. So why do we keep letting our little ones get off so easily?
A messy house says more about our parenting than we might think. Toys everywhere, crumbs on the floor, dirty clothes in piles, and not a bare spot on the ground to walk through the room can be a reflection of our families and how we raise our kids: A HOT MESS! The chaos of raising these little ones can be stressful, but how can we expect our kids to respect their objects and things, let alone people, when we don't make them clean up? Raising kids can sometimes be a huge mess [we all make mistakes], but don't live in the mess too. I know this is easier said than done, but sometimes I just need a little reminder to get me up and moving.
Let me share with you how we solve this problem. We have a whole list of Playroom Rules Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 must abide by, and the last rule on the list is, "CLEAN UP THE PLAYROOM!" That's right! When the Presidents are finished playing in their playroom, they MUST clean up their toys before they move onto anything else. No, I am not being the mean mommy; I am teaching my children good manners and good habits. Now I have to remind Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 to finish cleaning up at LEAST once a day, but the more they are reminded and practice cleaning up after themselves, the more it will become a habit. I not only want my boys to get into the routine of cleaning up after themselves at home, but I want them to do the same when they are visiting someone else's home. I hate to leave someone's home a mess after my kids have been there playing for hours, and I really hope you share the same sentiment.
Because my children have driven me to somewhat of a mild insanity, my husband and I are considering implementing a NEW Playroom Rule in this house, and it's called, "CLEAN-UP TIME WITH FRIENDS!" When Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 have company in their playroom, 5-10 minutes before their friends leave, one of us will come down for a "supervised" clean-up time. My boys already know the song, Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere, so they'll just gently teach it to their friends as they clean and pick-up after themselves during clean-up time. I think this is a fair way to politely ask your guests to clean with you, and then you and your little ones won't have the burden of doing all of the dirty work when they leave, right? I'm sure the playroom won't be spotless after clean-up time, but I can guarantee you won't be left with nearly as big a mess to clean up as you would have had before the kids began tidying up.
I know cleaning up after your little ones, and making them clean up, can seem like a really pointless task, but it's kind of like a mental thing for us. I'm sure it's probably easier to just leave the toys on the floor and keep the door shut, but when we actually put effort into cleaning up each time we use the playroom, not only do we generally have less to clean on a regular basis, but we feel better and more in control about life in general. I think tidying up relays the message to Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 that we respect our things, and we respect one another. It doesn't get any better than that. When I bought my first car, my dad used to tell me, "You take care of that car, it'll take care of you!" He was absolutely right! I truly believe teaching your children to respect their things will ultimately teach them to respect people.
Let our close friends and their four children be an inspiration to you also. The next time you go to a friends house and let your kids run ramped, please just make sure to have them clean up before you pack up and leave. I LOVE having company and inviting good friends over for a good time, but I HATE having to clean up an unnecessary mess, and I especially hate hearing Mr. President #1 and Mr. President #2 complain about having to clean up someone else's mess. Let's do ourselves a favor, and teach our little ones to clean up. We really should stop letting our children get off ao easily. And if I ever pay you a visit and my kids leave a huge mess that I am unaware of, feel free to ask them to clean up. You have my permission! It's all about respecting your space, but more importantly, respecting YOU!