Cleaning Up After Themselves
Like everything else in the lives of my kids, it will probably go by unnoticed when it happens, but that one thing that I am waiting for in my children’s development is for them to start having a sense of responsibility for their environment. I don’t know at what age it is textbook-normal for this to happen. I am not talking about them cleaning up when they are told, or when they get that random instinct to do something in search of praise. I am talking about that instinct to pick up the damn pencil when it falls on the floor just because that is what you do. My kids are awesome kids and at ten and ten and eight…they just aren’t there yet.
It’s not like they don’t have the good examples in place. I complain vehemently about people littering in public, and my husband and I both are the sort of citizens who will pick up trash when we see it, even though it isn’t ours. I have literally begged my children to please, please, start picking things up when they fall on the floor, but they literally do more work to push them under the couch where I won’t see them, than to pick them up and put them where they belong. I even remember myself doing this sort of thing as a child. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s couch and dropping candy wrappers behind it, instead of carrying them to the garbage. Why?
And I have heard that it can get even worse with teenagers. I have been told absolute horror stories of indescribable and unidentifiable things growing under the bed in kids’ rooms. My natural inclination is to believe that the reason they are not taking the initiative to clean up after themselves is because they know that I will eventually do it for them, but I am almost certain that this theory is wrong because it has been proven time and time again. I am perfectly willing to learn from the experiences of the other parents who have been through that. I honestly can’t quite understand why they are unable to see the clutter all around them, or why they are so comfortable in the midst of the mess.
If you aren’t a parent and you go to a house with kids, and you wonder why they have all of these weird little rules all of the time: this is the reason. Our rule is that kids can only eat at one dining table in the house, nowhere else. This is because I have found discarded food in the most unbelievable of places. We have rules about which garbage cans wet things can be put in, because we have had our fair share of trashcan disasters. We have rules about where wet suits and towels get hung up because my kids would leave them on the floor for weeks to mold if we let them do it. The list goes on and on.
Logically, my kids understand how to keep things clean. They have even been taught how to do dishes and scrub toilets. My only issue is that they still don’t care. All I can do though, is to keep teaching them how to care for their environment and keep the faith that someday, hopefully before the age of twenty five, the genes kick in and they start having the desire to pick up after themselves. It may just be the simple fact that it is still our property that they are littering and not their own. They may never discover their own sense of responsibility before they have ownership. While they are still working on independence, they can’t start in on the interdependence yet. Jeez, just another day in the world, and the mess, of parenting.