Sometimes I like to go back and reread old years of blog posts and remember what things were like back then. Then again, some things don't bear remembering. Sometimes I wish I could send messages back through to my past self. Sometimes I almost feel as if I can. So, this is for me then.
When the twins were on the way and our church was very kindly helping out with meals and sometimes people would stay and help catch up on dishes or something while I lay on the couch and didn't speak or move because if I did I would throw up. One lady, a tall and imposing and efficient woman without much experience with small children, took advantage of the opportunity to look around at our house knee-deep in toys and point out that I was neglecting the necessary task of teaching my children to pick up after themselves, and they would certainly need this for life, and it really was quite horrible that I was failing them in this regard.
I didn't say anything at the time, mostly because I would have thrown up if I had, such as pointing out that it is very hard to direct small children in picking up when you can neither move nor speak. I just tried to be grateful that she had washed the dishes and brought supper and not to worry too much about it.
And, though I tried not to let it worry me, sometimes it did, because even when I could move and speak, I never was one of those people who could make sure there was A Place For Everything and Everything In Its Place. Sometimes we got things cleaned up (usually in time to show the house and move) but more often we didn't. When we did get things cleaned up, it was often by dumping everything higgledy-piggledy in a box and shoving it out of sight somewhere.
But I figured if I couldn't keep on top of things enough to teach them good habits of cleanliness, I could at least not make them hate cleaning, so on the days when we did clean, I tried to make it fun as long as I could, and then I let them go, even though I feared this was a terrible mistake. (And I didn't always manage that. Sometimes I freaked out about the mess, too. Sometimes, everybody cried.)
I read once that children who had plenty of time for free play were actually better at picking up and taking care of things, owing to their more highly-developed executive function. It seemed too much to hope for, and I certainly didn't see any evidence of it yet, but it did give a glimmer of hope.
And then, slowly, I started to notice that things were changing. The children's cleaning-up capacity started to outstrip their mess-making capacity. The older two, especially, could actually participate in cleaning for quite a long time and even enjoy it. Sometimes, if they wanted to beg me for a special favor, they would even clean an area up on their own initiative.
Two days ago, they decided they wanted to move some furniture and beds around between the bedrooms and play room. (Essentially the whole upstairs of the house belongs to them, and it runs pretty wild most of the time.) I didn't want to deal with it. We hadn't done much housework in two weeks and everything was a mess. But DOB agreed to their pleadings that if they really got the whole area--all three rooms--cleaned and organized, they could do it.
They started right into that evening. They worked a lot of the next day (but they still did their weekly chores of laundry, mopping, scrubbing chairs and cleaning the bathroom and they also went swimming with his Majesty). And they did it. No grownup help, supervision, or even ideas. They cleaned out areas I had been afraid to touch. If I had tackled it, I would have scheduled at least three days, meals and laundry would have been late, and I would have been horribly crabby the whole time.
Now, I haven't been up yet but things are probably going to be messy again. But they *can* clean. More than that, they can tackle a big project on their own.
So, dear past me, lying on the couch: You're doing fine. They'll get it. Give them time, and let them play.