In our last parenting class, our teacher made a throwaway comment about not making kids put toys away in any particular order that struck me to my control-freak core. Ted grinned at me, of course, while I carried on an incoherent internal dialogue something like this (only in fragments and more heavily laden with expletives).
“Dammit, dammit, dammit!”
“But I’m sure she’s right.”
“Dammit! My way is the best way! If the toys aren’t put away that way they’ll always be a jumbled mess!”
“But really, it’s going to be so hard to teach the little kids to put them away that way.”
“But, dammit! I’ve worked so hard to get them the right way!”
“Do you want them all over the floor, or put away? Your way is too complicated, you know.”
“….and if Ted doesn’t stop smirking at me, I swear I’ll…….fine, I give in…..grrrr.”
So here we are, organizing the house. Among other things, there have been substantially greater numbers of toys forming trip and foot-puncturing hazards on the floor, crammed in between couch cushions, and jammed into every nook and cranny of the house than there have been resting in orderly fashion in our toy chests and bookshelves. Something has to be done. But that something cannot be my lengthy, solo, ego-driven effort to create the perfect organizational system which I can then resent my family members for not perfectly maintaining. I mean, it can. But I have realized that the costs for that method are too high.
Therefore, this afternoon after Ted and I swapped a couple pieces of furniture and put their contents in the living room and kitchen, Ted took over sorting and putting away the toys in the living room while I wrestled with art supplies in the kitchen. We are not done. But we’re pretty close. And we’re going to move forward together with two guidelines, the existence of which are a compromise between the chaos my inner child envisioned our teacher to be proposing, and the Spartan control fairy who lives in my head. That is, we’re a) going to put things away in categories, storing like with like, and b) include more time for cleanup after our kids’ activities so that toys and supplies can be put away throughout the day rather than multiplying into a colossal mess as they move from one thing to another.
My inner control fairy is freaking out, grabbing for her smelling salts and hyperventilating. “I DON’T KNOW WHERE ALL THE THINGS ARE! I DIDN’T PUT THEM AWAY MYSELF! I NEED TO KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS!”
But it’s ok. I pat her wings and give her some hot chocolate, which is very soothing for fairy nerves. And I show her the dining room table, which is almost clear, and the art corner, which is neat and more accessible again. And tomorrow I’ll have her sit on my shoulder when we talk to Hazel about our two guidelines and ask her if she has any other ideas about how we can keep the house more picked up.
And I get to look forward to putting the towels away on our new hallway shelves. My control fairy will enjoy placing them just so, lined up and harmonious, ready for depredation by the twins.
“Towel!” is one of Joanna’s favorite utterances.