Mr. Clean is on break

Using vinegar for a natural clean
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

My eight year old son has suddenly realized the value of money. The heavens have parted and a tiny stream of light is shining down on my wallet. Why no, son! Legos don’t grow on trees! So now begins the endless quest to acquire more green; it’s a blessing and a curse.

Now we have the cool Melissa and Doug (I don’t know who the hell these people are, but they are geniuses!) chore chart on the wall complete with cutesy smiley face magnets. My son jumps up and down with the promise of a dollar allowance each week.  I jump up and down along with him. I can barely contain my excitement. Can this be? My wildest housewife dreams of having a little helper are finally coming true?

Slowly I begin to notice changes around the house. I walk into my son’s bedroom one morning and stop in my tracks. Huh. How odd. The bed is made. Sure, the blankets look like they’ve been thrown there by a drunken monkey, but someone actually made an effort! I had to stop myself from looking under the bed for a tiny magical elf.

My son runs into the room. “Didya see what I did? Huh? Huh? Didya see?” he gushes.

I give him a quick squeeze. “Yes, I did and I am shocked. I am happy. I’m shappy.”

The next day I wake up and shuffle into the hallway half-dead on the way to the coffee pot. I notice a small pile of clothes shoved into the corner on the floor, a mere few feet from the washer and dryer.

I rub my eyes. Huh. How odd.

Over breakfast I say to my son, “Are you saving those clothes on the floor for later or…?”

He howls over his cereal bowl, “Oh no, Mom! Those are dirty clothes! I put them away for you.”

I nod and look at my husband with a look that says “So I see the clothes don’t fall too far from the washer tree, hmm?” My husband shrugs and tries to look innocent.

After picking up my son’s (and my husband’s) little piles of dirty clothes scattered in various corners throughout the house, (it’s like a little treasure hunt for us moms…what will I find? Pants covered in grass stains? Maybe a lonely mud encrusted sock poking out of a soccer cleat?!) I straighten the crooked blankets on everyone’s beds and head back into the kitchen.

I begin my morning routine of unloading/loading/prewashing/washing/rinsing/pre-rinsing the mountain of dishes in our sink and dishwasher. I curse our constant need for utensils and dishes. Why can’t we just go back to the old days and eat with our hands over a dirt floor?

I peer into the sink. Huh. How odd.

My son rushes over. “See, Mom! I helped put the dishes away! Can I get my dollar now? Huh? Can I? Can I?”

I give him a little hug. “Sure you can. Right after your father goes to Home Depot and buys us an industrial strength garbage disposal that can take care of entire cans of soda, Capri Sun packs and cupcake liners. I see your father fed you breakfast again?” My son grins and skips off.

After scooping the trash out of the sink, I open up the pantry door. Hmm. Why, there’s an unopened package of sliced turkey on top of the tomato soup cans. This chore for cash thing is quickly getting out of hand. My shappy days are quickly turning into shirritated ones. I shudder as a flash of my son “cleaning” our HDTV screen with baby wipes pops into my head.

Well, at least my sweet boy is trying. And God love him for it. I spend the rest of the morning rearranging the groceries.

Later that day while my son is in school, I sneak into his bedroom and inspect his chore chart. Maybe we can give this chore thing another go when he’s in college.  I contemplate banishing it to the upper shelf in his closet that is home to Very Bad Ideas that Seemed Great at the Time. It would fit perfectly, right next to his harmonica, guitar and recorder collection. I sigh.

Damn you, Melissa and Doug! Instead I decide to spare the “Help with Indoor Chores” magnet but add the “No Teasing” one. After all, the boy needs loads of help in that area as well. How many times can a middle-aged mom listen to her son ask her why her butt is growing and her wrinkles multiplying?

And so the Housewife Helper dream is fading. I say a little prayer and ask my daughter if she wants to help me bake some banana nut muffins. I smile as she insists on putting on an apron and washing her hands first. There’s still hope yet.

I scoop her up in my arms. “Hey!” I kiss her cheek. “I’ll give you a quarter if you help me cook dinner tonight…”

25 thoughts on “Mr. Clean is on break

    1. Thanks and here’s hoping he will! SOMEday…
      Have a good weekend as well. It hit 50 degrees here today. Good thing as we have about 50 feet of dirty snow and ice to melt. I say, bring on muddin’ season!

  1. Yeah! He’s on his way. Things that he can do, he should do (and will do). A self-sufficient Mainer!

    My son loves the chart thing for about 2 days: potty chart, chore chart. Then, he’s done with them and no amount of bribery will move him to action. (Actually, I’m not a big fan of external rewards, but every once in a while….).

    Of course, there are things that are expected around this house of everyone, like picking up their stuff, hanging wet towels in the bathroom, and putting dirty clothes into the hamper in one’s bedroom (a canvas bag with a wide opening, with a wire circle at the top is great for chucking 2 pointers of dirty clothes. I hang it on my son’s bed post.) I find that as long as I expect certain things to be done, and facilitate them, they are becoming more automatic for my son (and husband). It’s a constant work in progress.

    1. What’s funny is this chart was used in the past too when he was younger. Worked great for a bit. Then it temporarily lost it’s power and collected dust in the closet.

      Overall, he is very good at basic things like putting his toys away, brushing his teeth etc. without me having to ask (or reward). And he’s very considerate at helping his sister, really watches out for her. But this allowance thing is new to us. They are learning about money at school…buying/selling products, the value of work…so I think that’s where this new obsession is coming from.

  2. I agree, at least he is trying even if he isn’t helping out that much! It’s the effor that counts right? 😀 Noah is great at helping, but Maria and Matty, not so much. I’ve decided I have to actually start the subject of ‘Home Ec’ for our homeschooling, just to kinda reinforce the whole idea, ’cause they just aren’t getting it! LOL 😀

    1. I agree, Laila, the effort really does make my day! 🙂 Even if sometimes it means extra work for me, LOL. He’s getting better though. Today he straightened up the living room and did quite a nice job! He’s well on his way…

  3. One wonderful day you will realize that he actually is helping. When my sons were in elementary school, one of their chores was to unload the dishwasher. We started with them taking turns, but as we could remember whose turns it was, we divided it up. Jon put away the glasses, Matt did the plates and bowls, and Chris the silverware. One day I unloaded it as a favor to them. A bit later Jon opened the cabinet to get a glass. “Who put the glasses away?” he asked, clearly annoyed. I asked what was wrong and he pointed out that he had organized all the glasses by size and color. Not only was he helping out, he had improved on my system. It was a moment I will never forget.

    1. Now that is a moment I look forward to! My son constantly amazes me in so many areas, I’ve no doubt the chore thing will improve. Now I just have to convince my four year old to NOT dump all of her Polly Pockets and teeny tiny accessories all over the place!

  4. S

    I tried these types of charts. My two fought over who would vacuum, do dishes, and so on because those were what got the most money for each chore. That was good when they were 9 and 7. Now they are 10 and 12, summer’s came and went and out with the chores too. Now it is next to impossible to get them to lift a finger. Oh well, they can be bribed with other things, and so far I’ve been getting a bit more creative with lots of humor thrown in. Their attempts to do and feel good at were the greatest and gave them a sense of responsibility and good character, and mom a well needed and deserved rest. Love your posts!

  5. Great post! Laughed out loud several times! Cleaning your TV with a baby wipe. Still laughing at that one. haha. Oh what I have to look forward to in my two little helpers! 🙂 I think I’ll just banish them to the backyard to “help” Dad mow, etc. It is great that he was excited and maybe you can find something else for him to do, like…scrubbing toilets? haha. Can’t mess that up too much right?

    1. Now THAT is a great idea! Not one of my favorite chores…
      Today, my husband came up with a good idea, fill a bucket with soapy water, hand both kids a big sponge and let them go crazy cleaning the doors! What can go wrong there? (I’m sure there’s something…but I’ll take that chance) 🙂

  6. SCJ

    LOL, my husband feeds my children similar breakfasts when I’m not around!

    But we recently added a chore chart to kitchen wall. My kids are “decent” at doing what is expected – putting clothes in the laundry basket, putting plate at/near the sink, etc. We consider those to be part of their job as a member of the household. What we have on the chart are things that I cannot get them to do – brush their teeth in the morning (I know!), sweep the kitchen floor, clean up their room without being reminded, and change the cat water. Each star is worth only 10 cents, so you gotta do a lot of them in a week to earn a dollar, but it is working fairly well. I did just recently add a row for “extra credit” and that’s at my discretion. Like when my daughter decided to have me help her clean out her dress-up clothes yesterday!

    1. Whew! So your husband does that too, huh. Well, to be fair and honest, the cupcake liner was from me. oops! 😉

      My son is the same. There are some things he does automatically and without me having to bribe him. LOL Then, there are other things where he needs that extra push. Maybe I can give him an extra quarter if he actually puts his dirty clothes IN the washer/hamper next time?!

      To give him credit, my boy is so sweet and considerate of his sister and puts up with her antics all the time…so I can let the other stuff slide if need be. 🙂

      And I love your idea of “extra credit”!

  7. The Compulsive Writer

    This was awesome!! I love the shappy to shirritated… made me laugh. out loud. But what caused the milk to spurt out my nose was the “I walk into my son’s bedroom one morning and stop in my tracks. Huh. How odd. The bed is made. Sure, the blankets look like they’ve been thrown there by a drunken monkey”. Seriously…made my morning! still laughing….

  8. Skye

    Awesomesauce! Although I am a bit disillusioned now – I had SUCH high hopes for a little household helper of my own… *sigh* Oh well. 😀

  9. Mary the OINKteller

    You are truly hilarious and a fantastic writer to boot! (We’re having dinner, your blog and I – my husband took the kids to taekwondo and I am gleefully reading and laughing. All. By. Myself. Bathroom sanctuary unnecessary tonight.) Thank you for sharing the funny!!!

    1. You are welcome and thank you! I would kill for an intimate dinner, just me and wordpress/facebook…sigh….At least I didn’t have to resort to typing this comment out on my little iTouch while cowering in the bathroom for once. 😉

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