No one will ever praise me for my consistent and thorough house cleaning. I's OK. I'm over it. Growing up, my mom bustled around organizing and cleaning up before our friends came over, and when adult company was expected she kicked her cleaning into high gear. While I do exert more energy for adult gatherings, I typically put forth some effort when a rookie kid is entering our house for their first play date. After that I try to relax and make light of the situation. In a self-deprecating tone, I comment on how I bet they don't have to step over heaps of newspapers on their kitchen floor, or dodge piles of toys strewn across a family room, or waste valuable play time searching for a clear spot on the table to eat their snack. A couple times the youngster has agreed that these are odd situations for he/she to be dealing with. Usually, they just chuckle and enjoy pulling as many toys out as possible. Why not? The place was probably trashed to begin with.
Their is a job chart that hangs clearly in the kitchen. It helps, but only when I enforce it. Sometimes it is easier to spritz a bathroom counter myself rather than twist a kid's arm to do it. Of course, it's even easier to just skip the bathroom counter top and hope it gets cleaned up next week. We are busy people, so house work is the first thing to get tossed to the way side.
My mom was blessed with the perfect birth order for a neat and tidy house. After the three girls arrived, she birthed two boys. I'm guessing the training started early, but I don't recall. More credit for participating in the orderly house is owed to my older sisters than to me. I fell into an interesting position. Although I was technically a daughter, I seemed to get away with minimal housework participation. After all, I was closer in age to my little brothers and my tom-boy persona allowed me to shirke responsibilities without much effort. Additionally, it always seemed like my sisters were in control of the situation. More hands weren't required. Those prissy chicks were experts at picking up the slack, and they seemed to enjoy it too. Once we got to a certain age, my oldest and bossiest sister ordered us all to gather up the items that belonged upstairs after my folks left the house for a while. She was in charge. Boy, did she take that role seriously. In order to surprise my parents, we each took a stair a few ahead of the last kid. In assembly line fashion, she had us hand all the misplaced belongings up the sibling chain on hands. My mother often returned home in awe of the work we had accomplished. My sister was pleased with the positive feedback to her let's-surprise-mom master plan. In the long run, this pleasing outcome only perpetuated the controlling, bossiness of my sister. Enough said. I was always glad when Mom was excited, but I remained focused on my sacrificed play time.
Now when my mom visits my house, I frequently hear a heavy sigh followed by a comment like, 'Why does your house always look like this?' After feeling like a bit of a failure, I finally pointed out that being blessed with three strong sons like my offspring vs. three domestic daughters as in my upbringing (or perhaps two, because I'm unsure I can be counted in that number) caused a great deal of discrepancies in the way household tasks were handled. I am a firm believer in all the kids being able and willing to pull their weight regardless of gender, but I will admit that boys are typically wired differently. They are comfortable leaving dirty socks anywhere. They believe spills will eventually just get soaked into whatever surface they land on. And, they frequently can't recall where an object belongs, so leaving it on the floor or counter makes the most sense. Of course if any daughter of mine is similar to me, then I can't blame them for not giving a hoot about the house either.
A few weeks ago, I thought perhaps I had created the best weight loss opportunity imaginable. I scrubbed my kids' ceramic shower. Never thought I'd eat again. Clearly this is a task that needs to be tackled more frequently. In my defense, I don't shower in it. I bathe the younger kids in the adjacent tub and rarely peek in the huge shower. In fact, the younger kids aren't requiring as much assistance in the tub these days either. This particular shower is only a few years old. We shuffled some bathroom and closet space around a few years ago in order to create a 2nd floor laundry room and a formerly non existent first floor mud room. The mold was so bad that Coach had to replace the clear seal that lined the corners of the shower floor. My arms ached for days after I scrubbed the walls with all of my power. The red tinged mold that was taking over the beautiful ceramic tile chose not to budge during the first several scrubbings. I actually discovered five bars of soap - all in various stages of use. I gathered that if a bar had the misfortune to fall onto the floor it would be abandoned. Fear most likely gripped the showering youth. Who would want to rescue a bar of soap from a floor chock full of uncertain contaminates? Older bars dissolved into a pile of mush, while other bars still held some shape. The floor was also a stumbling ground of empty shampoo bottles. A wash cloth someone refused to retrieve lay gathering mold in the corner. (I wisely gifted the children with monogrammed bathroom towels and wash cloths back when the bathroom was complete. It was the Christmas gift that kept on giving. I now can usually deduce who has left a wet towel on the floor of a room despite how far off the beaten path it might be). This particular cloth was an extra - purchased as a back up, or for a visiting guest. No identifiable makings, unless you count the new mold pattern. I was so glad when it was over. Vowing never to let it get that bad again. Hoping it wasn't too late in this stage of the game to encourage more participation from the lack-of-neatness crew.
My girl friend and her sisters can't stop cleaning. They came from a huge Irish family and claim that their mother was always cleaning. Now they call it 'the gene'. They joke about this so-called curse of a gene that among other things causes them to sometimes stay up all night scrubbing things clean. I have yet to see even a crumb on the kitchen floor of my girl friend's house.
Of course I have to wonder: what other areas of my house are that gross and I don't even know about it? Certainly under a few beds and the backseat of the car. Since I don't possess 'the gene', I may never know.
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