Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hard Lesson Learned

For the past two days I have worked at home and been victim to hosted several other children for day-long playdate/babysitting extravaganzas. I have served microwave popcorn, freeze-pops, English muffin pizzas, peanut butter sandwiches, cosmic brownies, leftover Easter candy, pitchers upon pitcher of pink lemonade and fruit punch and even whipped up a batch of Toll House cookies.

The kids played barbies, dolls, build-a-bears, Draw Something. They colored, painted and made jewelry. They’ve scootered outside, played whiffle ball, hula hooped and played on the swings. They pulled clothes out of closets and drawers to have fashion shows.

They dropped toilet paper into the toilet and dumped the unpopped popcorn kernels on the futon and down the stairs. Uncapped markers and errant beads littered the floor of the playroom like confetti after a grand celebration.

They screamed and laughed and carried on. And they fought. Oh, how they fought. I referreed, dried tears, yelled, screamed and begged for just one blessed moment of silence. In fact, EN went upstairs today and found one guest sitting inside Sugar’s closet rocking back and forth. Therefore, he deemed her a “weird kid.” I beg to differ. Had I been given the choice between getting involved in the melee, I would have sat in that closet right beside the weird kid. I’m fine with him calling me the Weird Mother so long as he deals with the drama that played out around me.

But one thing they did not do… They did not, over a period of two days, bother to clean up. They moved from one activity to the next leaving behind a trail of toys and clothes. I went upstairs periodically and suggested that they all work together to tame the beast and clean the mess.

They all heard me. Each one of those five little monsters heard every suggestion I made. Yet instead of working together and putting the various rooms back together, they bickered. Each one claimed that they were not responsible for the mess. I felt like I was blasted back in time to a Family Circus comic strip featuring Not Me and Ida Know. How did those little monsters find my house? Who gave them directions?

My final plea finally got a little bit of action. The two guests that were left attempted to help straighten up, but mostly just walked around looking in awe at the aftermath that was their hurricane. Soon enough, the mothers came and collected their kids and left Sugar and Spice in the devastation formerly known as their bedrooms and playroom.

I served them up a helping of tough love Ice Princess style. I told them that for the remainder of their spring break there would be no play dates, visitors, fun trip to malls or movies or restaurants until the mess was cleaned up. My orders were met with gasps of shock and horror and more tears.

I reminded them that I had made multiple trips upstairs and suggested, in the presence of their friends, that they get working on the mess. A team of five who wrecks a joint like that can certainly set it to rights a whole lot faster than two.

Instead of screaming and fighting like I thought they would, they worked together. The girls worked for an hour tonight and now have one immaculate bedroom and a playroom that is a “work in progress.” The second bedroom still resembles a crime scene.

They were united in their quest to continue the fun they had so far this week.

I have two little girls that learned a hard lesson tonight. The lesson wasn’t new to them, it’s been repeated frequently since I found them in the cabbage patch. The lesson is… LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER. When the mama says, “work together to clean up,” it’s probably a pretty good suggestion. At almost-eleven and six, they couldn’t see past the moment. They didn’t want to stop having fun to straighten up the games that had already been discarded. Had they taken a few minutes here and there (like every time I fucking told them to), they would have been left with rooms in slight disarray rather than tornado alley.

My girls have always been taught to clean up messes they make at their friends’ houses. When I pick them up from play dates and sleepovers, I always ask, in the presence of their friends and parents, “Did you clean up your mess?” I wonder if other parents follow this same guideline? I don’t want my kids to be known as some sort of wrecking crew. I want them to be well mannered and respectful of their friends and their things. Given that I felt like I was speaking a foreign language when I asked children that I didn’t spawn to assist in the clean-up effort, I’m of the opinion that not many follow this rule.

We’ll see how future play dates at the Ice Princess Castle go down.

Ice Princess 

1 comment:

  1. Aw this is like deja vu for me. We have friends over all of the time and every time they all leave, my kids' rooms look like a tornado went through. I have often wondered if the other parents just don't think about it or simply don't care as long as it's not their house. After my son's last get together I went upstairs to find the sheets completely off his bed, every item he owns on the floor along with some oatmeal cream pies (thankfully still in the wrapper but smashed just the same) and I don't know how many empty gatorade bottles. Then there was the smell that came out of that room. Seven, 12 year olds can really stink a place up.