Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cleaning House

When it comes to parenting, I am (and probably always will be) a bit of a hard ass. I like to think of it as holding my daughter accountable; Morgan, on the other hand, likes to think of it as me RUINING HER LIFE. Yes, I understand the implications of this dynamic and I am fully aware that this means she may always like David better than me. He's also the one who puts chocolate chips in her lunch and has promised her 5,693 ponies.  But we all know I will be the shoulder she cries on when none of those damn ponies show up.

In the midst of our holiday decorating, much of our daily housekeeping went by the wayside, including most of Morgan's toys and crafts. I will spare you any photos of the chaos, as they may be deemed too graphic for children.  In summary, our family room looked like we had been ransacked by a herd of buffalo or the victims of a rare indoor tornado. It was time for clean up.

I announced to Morgan play time was over and that it was time to put our house back together. I gave her the standard 5 minute warning to wrap up what she was doing and told her I would be in to check her progress. I went back to my own housework, less than confident in her ability to meet my deadline. When I returned 5 minutes later, I found Morgan laying on the floor, surrounded by a sea of Barbie carcasses. "It's just too much!" she wailed. I calmly (yes, calmly) explained that she made the mess and she needed to clean it up. This is not a new revelation for my child, but one that she has a really hard time accepting. 

I gave my daughter two choices: either she cleaned up her mess, or Mom does it for her. And if Mom got involved, clean up was going to consist of garbage bags and toys that would be banished to the garage...or the landfill. My stubborn, stubborn daughter then decided to call my bluff. Thanks to some help from Hefty, the joke was sadly on her. I went to work, gathering up everything from Cabbage Patch Dolls to bits of crayon. Nothing was spared. In mere minutes, the family room was immaculate, its beauty only slightly compromised by the profuse sobbing that filled our house. I was also having none of that. Off to her room she went, with the strict instructions that she could not emerge until she was done crying. In terms of her toys, those could only be earned back if she cleaned her bedroom the way she should have cleaned the family room. My terms were clear and non-negotiable. 

Within a few minutes, the house fell silent. I quietly peeked into her room, only to see Morgan hunched on the floor, scribbling furiously. I crept back to the kitchen, mostly just enjoying the quiet. As I began loading the dishwasher, I heard her door open, her feet shuffling down the hall. I turned to greet her, only to see this note on the floor next to me:

I went back to my dishes, only for the same scene to repeat itself several times over the next 20 minutes.  Note Number 2:

Note Number 3, written only after not getting a response to note Number 2:

Note Number 4 (at this point I was pretty sure she was trying to tell me her room was clean):

And finally, note Number 5, the meat of the matter:

I waited a few minutes, trying to suppress the grin that kept creeping onto my face. This was a serious parenting moment, not to be undone by my daughter's keen negotiating tactics. I knocked on her door and swung it open, only to be greeted by a tear-stained face and one spotless bedroom. She looked at me expectantly, trying to read my reaction.

I walked around her room, noticing her bed was made, her stuffed animals were carefully arranged, and her dirty laundry actually in the hamper. With a silent nod, I signed off on her efforts. Morgan squealed and immediately recruited Dad (who again stepped in as her personal hero) to retrieve the garbage bag from the garage. We unpacked it together, Morgan careful to place each toy in its proper spot.

It's been two weeks, and the family room remains relatively clean. I'd like to think she learned a little life lesson from this experience, but I am pretty sure she's only putting away her toys because I very subtly left the garbage bag sitting next to the TV.