Cleaning bathrooms can be fun

An article in a recent New Yorker, “Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?,” was so dumb that I’ll have to blog about why (the blogger’s revenge), but it did remind me that I intended to press for Mookie to acquire some chores upon turning 5, and haven’t done it. So I said, “Big girls help around the house. I think you should set the table now,” citing one of my (few) chores growing up. She said, “That’s boring!” Stifling a lecture on how housework can be quite boring but we all have to pull our weight (methinks it’s time to play her Free to Be . . . You and Me again), I asked what other chores she’d like to do. For example, I said, I scrub the toilets . . . She jumped up and said, with an eagerness not usually associated with the phrase, “Scrub the toilets!” Okay, I said–next time I clean the bathroom, you can scrub the toilet.

Yesterday she brought it up all on her own. “Mama, let’s clean the bathroom.” So I showed her how to squirt in the soap and scrub and wipe the toilet and–the highlight for her–mop the floor. I was sponge-rinser, mirror-cleaner, sink-cleaner, and, because Mookie got nervous when Joy said “Tell Mookie not to get the scouring powder in her mouth–it’s poisonous,” chief  tub-scrubber. We could not convince her that the most fun, as well as productive, way to scrub a tub is to take off all your clothes, get right into the tub on hands and knees, and combine rinsing the tub with taking a shower, but she did get into the tub and have fun rinsing it. For this task, she insisted on using a small squirt bottle that has been a tub toy ever since we stopped needing it as a diaper-changing accessory. (A nice thing about cloth diapers: we kept that bottle on the changing table and squirted it onto a corner of a diaper in lieu of a wipe.) I said it would be kind of slow, but she said “It’s how I do it, and it’s more fun.”

Fun! Take that, Sheldon Harnick, who said in that Free to Be . . . poem, “Housework is just no fun.” He also said, “Nobody smiles doing housework but those ladies you see on TV,” but Mookie and I were smiling last night. The bathroom looks good, too. I will spare you from looking at a photo to prove it. Instead, here’s that poem.

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One thought on “Cleaning bathrooms can be fun

  1. Fun! I hope it lasts.

    A few months ago S. asked to change one of her chores: for a couple of years she was in charge of cutlery when the dishwasher was clean and she was around to do it. (That was my childhood chore, so I am like you on starting there.) She decided, though, that she was bored of that and requested to be in charge of emptying the entire dishwasher EXCEPT for the cutlery. OK with me!

    The problem is that when she doesn’t get around to it, the kitchen gets a bit backed up. So I added a penalty a couple of weeks ago that she agrees is fair: If she doesn’t empty the dishwasher within 24 hours (aka first reasonable opportunity, given school/camp schedule) then as interest she has to do the cutlery also. She hasn’t had to do it yet.

    Excellent technique! Teaches responsibility, deferred gratification, and math all at once. When I told M. I was going to be doing a lot of cleaning today (um, just as soon as I get off the internet 😉 ), she said “I want to clean! I want to clean!” I thought “Great, you can clean your room” would probably not meet with enthusiasm (though she loves it when we alley-oop her things into their bins), and sure enough, when I asked her what she’d like, she said mopping. I do have to mop the kitchen floor, and although it would be more convenient to do it when everyone’s out of the house, I could save it for after dinner so she can try it. This is probably a rare moment and we’d better make the most of it. –A

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