Today in my house, we learned a lesson. If you don’t want to clean that shit up, don’t do that shit.
We have a set of plastic bins from Target to help with cleaning up and organizing. Don’t mean to brag. We have a set of colorful plastic bins from Target in which a lot of the kids’ smaller toys are stored. Blocks, dolls, fake food and plates, old pay-as-you-go cell phones, poker chips, empty cigarette boxes, bottle caps, three-penny nails, mercury. You know.
I heard the sound of thousands of tiny plastic pieces hitting a hardwood floor.
“Are you dumping out the bins?” I asked rhetorically.
“Complete Silence!” they answered.
I asked again. “Yeah but, we’re using them for some lunatic pre-schooler made-up game reason!” they replied.
“OK,” I said, “but if you empty out all the bins, that means you are going to be doing a lot of cleaning up later. OK?”
“OK,” they replied with confidence.
I drove my point home annoying-parent style. I went around the corner, got them looking at me, and repeated myself in a voice that was still at the same volume it had been when I was a room away. With an added threat: “You guys will have to clean it up all yourselves.”
“OK,” they answered brusquely.
They were a little annoyed now because some loud moron kept moving closer and closer to them, repeating himself as he went. I don’t blame them.
“All right,” I answered with all the arrogance of someone who knows he’s about to be right and can’t wait to get there. Parents really do suck.
Cleaning up is hell
And so it happened. I gave them a 15-minute warning for cleaning up. Ten. Five. 2. One and a half minutes. 47 seconds. 31. 19. 11. You can tell I’m getting mad when I slip into prime numbers
They were shocked when I started yelling. Shocked. But to their credit they dug in and tried not to get the job done.
I helped, of course. I put the bins back in the rack, put a few toys in each so they would have an idea of what went there. Had their hands replaced with rakes. To little avail.
When it’s time to clean up around here, you have two choices. Clean-up and win first prize: 15 minutes of TV or a treat, maybe both on a good day. Second prize is, your fired. There are no steak knives.
So clean up or go to time-out and if you continue to fuck around, you go to bed.
My son, The P-Man, never had a chance. There was a carpet of foot hurting, over-priced, beloved pieces of plastic from one end of the room to the other. Probably thousands of pieces. He tried for a little while. He failed. Time-out, back up from the time-out, five minutes of cleaning, bedtime. He cried for about five minutes and then passed out. Couldn’t. Handle. The Clean-up.
The Peanut, ny daughter, continued. Alone against a sea of junk. I let her go for a bit by herself. Then I pitched in. We finished up and went off to collect her prizes. She was so proud of herself. “I did it all by myself, Daddy!”
“Bullshit!” I did not reply.
But I could’ve. I was well within my rights. It was cool how proud of herself she was for cleaning up her own mess. It was a gargantuan task. I just hope that feeling of pride doesn’t backfire when she gets older.
“Yeah, D-d-daddy, I was shitfaced and I hit this guy dead on. But instead of driving away, I stopped, collected the body and took it home. A Skilsaw and some lime later, and boom, no more body! I cleaned it up all by myself!”
Of course, I’d still be proud of her.
Editor’s Note: A version of this first appeared on Musings from the Big Pink.