Sunday, January 9, 2011

The math of real life.

My son is cleaning his room today. He's not happy about it. In fact, when he was informed that was what he'd be doing today he cried and stomped and carried on like a toddler having a tantrum. He'd be pissed that I told you that, too, but whatever. He doesn't read my blog. Anyway. Generally, I wouldn't be so emphatic that the room had to be cleaned- it's his room and his mess, and the fit he throws when he's asked to clean it is enough to make me reconsider. I'm conflict averse as much as he is cleaning averse- a match made in hell- but the room's out of hand, dangerous in fact, and it needs to be done. And once I decide something needs to be done, that's the end of the story.

He went to his room after breakfast and freaked out. I understand the frustration. It's an unholy mess- scraps of paper on the floor, Legos on all the surfaces, Bakugan cards, crumpled Monopoly money, dirty clothes, batting from a human-sized stuffed dog with a ripped seam, one half of a busted open pinata. It's overwhelming, all the work that needs to be done, and what I'd like to do is ransack the room with a garbage bag and call it a day. The whining would stop, and the room would be cleaned. Problem solved. But then I'm doing the work and he hasn't learned a thing other than that Mom will take over if he whines enough. Not the lesson I want to teach.

So I'm helping him out, not by cleaning, but by teaching him to forget the big mess for a while and focus on something smaller. I pointed out that he had Legos scattered all over, and asked him to start on those first. "Put them all away, then come get me," I instructed. So he did. Then I asked him to pick up all the paper. "Make a pile of what you want to keep, put it in a folder on your desk, and recycle the rest." It took a while, because he had to actually decide what was worth keeping, but he finished and came to get me. We did this a few more times before he noticed that his room was getting clean. "I'm doing it," he said with a smile. "Yep," I grinned back.

I think about my own mess- the things I want to do, need to do, long-term goals, short-term expectations. I want it done, cleaned up now. Organized and achieved. Sometimes I don't know where to start, and the sheer frustration of not being able to accomplish it all at once overwhelms me and I freak out. Not the crying and stomping and kind of freak out, but the kind where you shut down and think, "If I can't do it all, I can't do any of it."

I'm wrong, of course. And sometimes I need to be reminded that small accomplishments add up to big achievements when put all together.

My son's room isn't clean yet. He still has a lot of work to get done. Me too, but I know it'll happen. Just keep at it, Kate. Every little bit counts.

Listening to: Death Cab For Cutie "The Photo Album"

xo. kb.

1 comment:

  1. And thanks to all of you who encourage me to keep my perspective.