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.
Here’s my kid’s home environment.
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.