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eaten alive by toys

Tom and I recently went to a parent education thing at our kids’ school. Actually it was six hours over a Friday night and Saturday morning, so you know it must have been killer when I say it was worth my entire weekend. The Silent Journey, as it is called, is basically an opportunity to experience the work and materials that our kids experience in their Montessori classrooms, and to see it all from their perspective.

Throughout the experience, we filled out answers to questions designed to make us think more deeply about what we were observing. One of the questions was something along the lines of “How does this classroom differ from your child’s environment at home?” Something like that. I don’t remember the exact words, because as soon as I read the question, I started feeling hysterical laughter bubble up inside me, and had to concentrate on not erupting in a maniacal bray.

Here’s my kid’s school environment.

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photo by an vu

Here’s my kid’s home environment.

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Asking me to compare Finn’s home and school environments is like asking me to describe the ways in which an orange is similar to a monkey. There is no common ground. Actually, given that oranges and monkeys (Orangutans?) are both orange-colored, that’s probably a weak analogy. But I digress. Because here’s the sad truth: my kids’ environment at home, unlike their environment at school, is one never-ending mess that needs to be cleaned up. I don’t even mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally. From the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, I am cleaning. Because, if I don’t, I will be eaten alive by my kids’ stuff.

They are children. As such, their primary joy in life is to take shit out of shit, and explode it all over the place. I have two kids, so if I’m cleaning something up with one kid, the other is in the next room opening up the Candyland and throwing all the cards in the air like that scene from Scarface where Al Pacino throws all his $100 bills after snorting a line of coke. I don’t know if that’s really a scene from Scarface, but if it isn’t, it definitely should be.  By the way, what the hell is with all the throwing?  Today I watched from the kitchen sink as my three-year old calmly filled a glass with water, walked out onto the back deck to drink it, and then hurled the glass off the deck when he was done.  He grinned from ear to ear when it shattered into pieces.  They like the cause and effect, I guess.  I’m going to go with that, because the alternative is just too scary.

Anyway, in the three hours it takes you to sort the 17,000 Lego pieces from the 12,000 Playmobil pieces, you really start to question life. Like, why do I even allow them to have toys? Sometimes I fantasize about burning everything in a bonfire and putting a gun rack on the wall with three Nerf guns on it. Simple. Minimalist. Like a Donald Judd. Nerf guns are all they want anyway.

So why not tell them to clean up, right? I do. But here’s the thing: my kids are really shitty cleaners. Like, SUPER not thorough. I mean, I have no doubt that they’re putting a spit and shine on the stuff they clean at school, but when they get home, it’s not happening. Here is my all-time favorite photo of Finn, from when he was four. I had asked him to clean his room. After a sulky 2.5 minutes, Finn proclaimed that he was done.

Look at his eyes. He clearly knows it’s not cutting the mustard. At this point it’s like a big game of chicken. He knows it’s a half-assed job at best. And I know he knows it. But do I really want to engage in another round of verbal sparring with someone who can barely conjugate verbs? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll just save my breath and get back on my hands and knees and start separating the Jenga pieces from the Lincoln Logs.

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. jo #

    had to read this out loud to my OH … love the ‘shit out of shit’ part … we could be living the same life!

    October 16, 2014
  2. Thank You 😉 And if you ask me, yes, their primary joy in life *must be* to take shit out of shit, and explode it all over the place.

    July 24, 2013
  3. Ginger #

    As always , sooooooo much fun to read! And universal. When my girls were the ages of your boys we lived in classic Portland bungalow complete with an unfinished basement. There was a pantry down there lined with shelves which I’m sure some previous, amazing person used to fill with homemade canned fruits and pickles and such. Well, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen as long as I lived there, so I found another use for the pantry – ‘toy depository’. Every evening after “hurry, Daddy’s coming home, let’s clean up the house!”, any toys left out in the common areas of the house – kitchen, living room, family room etc. – were taken to the Toy Depository. Then they had to do chores and get tokens to buy back their stuff. Their rooms were not part of the plan – I think everyone deserves a place where they are in charge. We didn’t do it for too long and I probably wasn’t terribly consistent, but we did learn a few things. First, it was interesting to see what stuff was important enough to do chores for and what stuff seemed to stay on the shelves of the Toy Store, as they called it. (I think they intentionally left out things they no longer cared for, like the educational games my mother always gave them, just get them out of site.) They tended towards wanting the more open-ended, imaginative toys. Hmmmm. Also, I think they learned about appreciating what is important to them, and perhaps to be a bit more discerning. Anyway, it was kinda fun and they still talk about it today. I don’t think I’ll be surprised if one day I go to one of their homes and see a ‘Toy Store’ in the basement.

    October 11, 2012
    • this is a fabulous, fabulous idea. they can clean and learn micro-economics at the same time. Ginger you’re a genius!!

      October 11, 2012
  4. Hi! I’ve just found your blog and love it! I too have two small children and they too looove to make a mess! Some people like to keep on top of the mess, the way I deal with it is to let it get really really bad and then when i can no longer bear it stomp around in a grump tidying it all up whilst vowing never to let it get that bad again……

    I live in the UK but Ikea is obviously very global as we have the exact same rug and black board inhabiting our play room!

    October 10, 2012
  5. expressingmotherhood #

    My kids love a clean room, rarely getting their toys out. The grandparents have been big givers in the past.

    October 10, 2012
  6. Kathy #

    Ah, Yoona, thought provoking for the grandma (‘Oma’ in my case) who is contemplating the gift for the 1st birthday….

    October 9, 2012
    • oh kathy. generous grandmas are the enemy of playrooms everywhere. but keep doing your thing, that’s what grandmas do best!

      October 9, 2012
  7. I too contemplate throwing all of the toys away, as it is, anything that makes a mess, painting, play doh is no longer allowed out on my watch. I just got tired of cleaning it up (and yes my kids “helped”, just like Finn did when he was 4). I live you and your posts. You keep it real.

    October 9, 2012
    • tate eats play-doh like it’s puff pastry. dangerous stuff

      October 9, 2012
  8. Cloie #

    Getting rid of our Playmobils was the best day of my life. Now we are just down to Legos which are nearly as challenging to contain, but the sorting has gone away.

    I love Al Pacino image. During a sleepover on Friday, Miriam and her friend had a “money tornado” with Monopoly money, but instead of coke they were hopped up on cookies.

    October 9, 2012
    • cookies will do the job. the kids still love the playmobil, but good to know I don’t have to keep it forever

      October 9, 2012
  9. Kristin #

    Love. I cried tears of laughter….but also tears of relief! Every day I think about burning the toys/throwing them on the curb (because in Portland they WILL get picked up) or donating to children who need them (which means they will love and appreciate them so much more than my kids and kepe them neat and tidy right?) Made my day…thanks!

    October 9, 2012
    • any suggestions on where to donate toys in portland??

      October 9, 2012
      • Kristin #

        NW Childrens Outreach is a great cause….

        October 10, 2012
  10. Tami #

    I love this! Don’t worry, it doesn’t last long. At some point they give up the toys and want you to teach them to drive.

    October 9, 2012
  11. Everybody has to find their own way – no judgement. That said? One very important lesson I learned while being the Best Parent I Knew How to Be (exclamation points optional): Home is not “School but with Different Teachers”. Nor should it be. There are multiple very different roles for each to play in a child’s life and for you to even try to duplicate one in the other is not worth your energy, your limited time or your sanity. Not to mention theirs.

    Sure sure there is a bit of overlap (cue the Venn Diagram) but what your kids have going at home is not what they’ve got going at school and vive la différence! You and your budding physicists will work out your own ways to co-exist at home while school can be where they get those first limited tastes of living less indulgently. It’s all good.

    Anyway, can you imagine if your home and work experiences and situations were purposefully crafted to be identical? Throw in a few zombies or sparkly vampires and that is sure enough a plot line for the next dystopian bestseller.

    October 9, 2012

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