I Make My Kids Clean; Can I Still Call Myself an Attachment Parent?

I make my kids clean up the house, as much as one can make three fiercely independent free-thinking children do anything. And here’s why:

1. They live here.
2. They make 98.7% of the messes.
3. They live here.
4. Every member of our house functions better when it is clean.
5. They live here.
6. I am not their servant.
7. They live here rent free

Go ahead – flame me!  Kick me out of attachment parenting.  Revoke my membership from the unschooling yahoo groups I belong to more because I like the concept than because we unschool.  But first, hear me out.

I hate to do laundry, especially when somebody else’s skid marks are involved. I hate to make three flipping meals and two mother-of-pearl snacks plus an-infinite-amount-of-bites-because-a-child-is-going-to-faint-from-hunger a day. But I do them anyway. I do them because I love these little people of mine and I want them to be happy and well-fed.  Plus I want to keep them and were I to quit completely, the authorities might come take them away.

Sometimes in life we have to do what we need to do before we get to do what we want to do.  I heard that on Oprah, where I got most of my important life lessons.  I often times need to remind myself of that and it is a lesson I hope my kids will learn from me, not Oprah (I mean no disrespect, O).

When they were younger, I created an infinitesimal amount of fantasies to make cleaning fun. “These (shirts) are piles of hay for the horses. The horses live in your top drawer. Would you go feed them their hay please?”  “Oh no, the planet Ork (sometimes I stole from 70’s TV) has been invaded by Pac-men (sometimes I stole from 80’s video games) and we need to capture them. They disguise themselves as toys so pick up all the Pac-men and throw them in this basket as quickly as possible so they don’t eat Mamma’s toes.”

Damn, I was good.  I kind of made myself puke with the cuteness of it all.

Now they’re all older, well the older ones are anyway, but the youngest has always had an old soul and unless a game involves pretending to surgically remove someone’s spleen, she’s just not that into fantasy. I am all out of scenarios that begin with, “These aren’t socks — they’re the body parts of a person who came into the ER after an explosion. It’s your job to suture all the matching parts. Find the two arms that match…”  Yep.  My two elders needed ponies and mermaids; my youngest prefers mutilated body parts requiring extensive surgery.

I.  Just.  Can’t.  Do.  It.  Anymore.

So here’s what we have been doing lately – and by lately I mean yesterday, but it worked so well I plan to write a parenting book that claims this this is a foolproof method and if it doesn’t work for you then you must suck as a parent. We spent most of the day at home.  I started by setting a timer for 15 minutes. I told them that at the end of those 15 minutes we would all clean for 15 minutes. They got to choose what they wanted to clean and any complaints would be met with extra cleaning minutes (Yeah, I’m all badass that way when it comes to getting the horse dung from last week’s horseback riding lesson off the bathroom floor). Then we did it. After cleaning, I set the timer for 20 minutes of free time. We did our own thing and then set the timer to clean for 20 minutes.  Then I set the timer for 30 minutes of free time, but we only cleaned for 20 minutes.  See how they got a little more free time each session? I call that a “reward”, which can sometimes be a bad word in my circles – another reason to ignore the fact that I cloth diapered all my kids and nursed the one I could nurse for three years and tried (but failed) to nurse the two I did not birth and co-slept and go ahead and just drop kick me from AP club.

But before you do, here’s the thing… we finished all the cleaning around 4:00. The kids did several creative activities throughout the day, had some hilarious sibling play time in which they changed popular songs to include the words butt, buttocks, fart or poo, the house is clean, and nobody fought during the cleaning. Plus, the middle child exclaimed at dinner, “That was so much more fun than any normal kind of cleaning.”

Most important, though, is that everyone is happy with the job we did.  Satisfaction abounds and all art and activity areas provide clean slates for further creativity (my son is still asleep this morning after a marathon night of Lego building and reading in his newly clean room).  And mom, that’s me, feels so darn peaceful that I truly welcomed the middle-of-the-night “I suddenly need to get into bed with Mamma and snuggle her awake to tell her what I am thinking even though it is two in the morning” session.

And isn’t THAT the true essence of attachment?

One of the many projects accomplished
between cleaning sessions

One Response to I Make My Kids Clean; Can I Still Call Myself an Attachment Parent?

  1. I personally believe that training kids to be self-responsible and keep a tidy space is perfectly acceptable.

    I think you’ve done a fantastic job!

    Please keep stealing from 80’s video games. That’s great!

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