My husband and I model neat behavior every day. But our boys don’t seem to notice, a blindside that enrages me because I have to repeatedly issue the same clean-up orders.
Every day it’s the same: The same archipelago of crumpled clothing. The same sodden towels in terrycloth dunes on the floor. The same crime scene splatter of Playmobil figurines and race cars. The same tacky blue swishes of Kids Crest on the white vanity. The same pee on the toilet seat. When I use my sons’ bathroom, I actually squat like I’m in a public restroom.
My boys are just not into being clean and neat. They still don’t fully understand the purpose of a napkin. There are Goldfish crumbs everywhere. They would rather walk the earth in the same layer of sweat, sea water and suntan spray for all eternity than take a shower.
I am neat now, but I wasn’t always. I wasn’t a slob, but I could leave dishes in the sink overnight if I was too sleepy. Now? Ugh. Shudder. Never.
My husband has made me a much tidier person. I remember early in our relationship, Michael informed me we would spend a sunny Saturday afternoon cleaning his apartment. No brunch. No romantic walk. No afternoon movie. Cleaning. And I don’t mean neaten and straighten. I mean an erase-the-evidence type of cleaning. While I vacuumed the dog hair out of the corners and hated it, part of me felt pretty happy to be with a man who liked to clean.
Michael does the dishes nearly every night. And makes the bed. When I come home from being away a few days the house is always pristine. And he never leaves any clothes in a pile for me to pick up. We keep a very tidy home and model neat behavior every day. But the boys don’t seem to notice.
This mystifies and enrages me because I have to say the same things every single day: Pick up your towel. Put away your clothes. Put your dishes in the dishwasher. That’s crumpled, not folded.
I’ve read the advice on raising neat children. I’ve even written advice for raising neat children. So why are they being all slugs and snails and puppy dog’s tails?
On a recent vacation, I thought maybe since they had fewer items, they wouldn't be as messy as usual. Because shouting at them to pick stuff up really steals my sunshine, man. And I didn’t want to shout on vacation.
But every day, bonjour, piles! Piles of inside-out shorts with underwear attached. Ezra’s little Syracuse wardrobe pile. The Beyblade pile. The guitar book and picks pile. The towel pile, of course. The Lego piece pile. The bedding from the two unused beds piles. And a new pile, which I bent down to inspect.
“No, mom!” Ezra shouted. “That’s my hamper!”