"I choose joy over grumpiness."

I've been lurking for a while but I just want to thank you for this list. I had a bad day yesterday triggered by my food allergies, but I was focused on the lack of help I get in picking up the never-ending messes.

I was feeling like a failure and a victim. But I woke up early and thought "I'll search the unschooling board for advice on this." And I found a great discussion that was SO helpful (early September 2004 if you want to check it out).

Now I feel equipped to try again. My new mantra: "I choose joy over grumpiness."


Modelling Joy

Responses to this question, posted at UnschoolingDiscussion, 3/4/03:

***Our home is constantly teetering on the edge of disaster. Household help is not given unless I give a very specific request. Things that need to be done are done at the last minute, and so on ... I am curious about what other unschooler's 'routines' or schedules are like. ***

If you think about this you can conclude that your kids are really very smart.
If the household seems disastrous then no smart child would dive in and clean up. It would seem impossible to a child, if mom couldn't even keep it under control, and it would be impossible to know where to start, and it would be impossible to imagine you'd ever get to the end of it. Why would a smart child put him or herself through that?

If you take care of your house happily, even if you don't ever make any real progress or feel it's getting really clean, if you look after things calmly and happily your kids will be more likely to participate in the process. If you're grumping around growling about things being out of control, how are they ever supposed to feel they could manage it? If you can't handle it, how could they?

My son doesn't have any chores but he helps if I ask for help and he does some things on his own just because his life is more convenient if he does so. I get up earlier than he does so I clean then. If he's busy with things and doesn't need me I do a little more then. In the evening if he's playing with his dad or watching TV and there is still something I didn't get to, I try to do it. Cleaning never comes before fun though, so lots of things wait until the next day.

My house is never spotless but it's never on the verge of being condemned, either.

Maybe having a clean house isn't important to your kids. Maybe their lives are so full and fun that they don't even think about it and if that's the case, good for them. I mean this in the kindest possible way, but it is your house. You presumably decided to live there and decided to collect all the things you have there and decided to have kids, too. It's really not their job, it's yours, and if you're unhappy about it it's not reasonable to expect your smart kids to be happy about it.

People talk about modeling behaviors for their children here and I really believe we have to model good cleaning up behavior too. We have to either find a way to do our work happily, as a gift to our families, in which case the likelihood of them helping us out from time to time is greater, because it's a pleasant experience, or we have to pay someone who's happy to have the job.

And remember, you don't get another chance to be the mom to these kids right now, today. When they are grown and gone from you you can have the cleanest house in the neighborhood. But what is the most important thing today? What will you be happier remembering in your old age; that your house always looked nice or that your kids were happy? What will your children be happy to remember about their time with you? Dirty houses always wait for you to get around to them. Children don't, and shouldn't have to.

Happy, happy, happy.

Deb Lewis

Tuesday, March 4, 2003, UnschoolingDiscussion

In some ways, I'm kind of new to the whole put-unschooling-into-cleaning-the-house idea. I've been doing it for maybe 4 or 5 months now in earnest, but earlier had 'dabbled' at it (or rather, tried until I blew up in frustration). The transition takes some changing of your philosophical mindset when it comes to the house and the kids place in the house. I was still frustrated because I hadn't really taken the change to heart, see? Really accepted it.

The way I see it, the kids are a gift, eh? We asked for them and we got them. It's our job to take care of them (which includes cleaning their cage and taking them out on walks - oh wait, that's the critters...) (grin) Anyway, the kid didn't ask to be born to you, so why should they have to make the world (even if just the house) the way *you* like it? They shouldn't. I used to not 'get' this and it used to be really frustrating for me! After all, they were part of this family, they should keep the house in the way the heads of the families like it! Right!!! um, wrong. Their job is elsewhere.

Nowadays, I willingly and open-heartedly make sure they have clean clothes, good food 3x's a day, lots of hugs and attention and (and this is the new part for doing without expecting help from them) a pretty-clean home over their heads. I show them by my actions how to keep a house from falling down around one's ears (the secret is building the paper piles tall enough), but I don't REQUIRE them to help out. If I ask for help it's very okay for them to say, "No, I'm busy right now." I actually and truly feel the same if the help out or don't. That's the newish part for me.

It took a couple of weeks for them to really get that I wasn't going to force them to clean to my satisfaction anymore. Once they got that, there was a flurry of 'No!"s to test it out and now they help out more often than not. They realize they help make the house messy, but they also realize that if they're doing something more important, they don't have to stop to do what I want to do. We also do a lot of two-minute cleanups, where I say that I'm going to clean one room for exactly two minutes, invite them to join in, set the timer, then run around cleaning like a mad-woman for exactly two minutes. After the two minutes are up, we STOP. No more. (And stopping is the hard part! The kids sometimes won't!)

The other day, it bugged me that my son's room was really, really messy. So, I went in and cleaned it. I asked him where he wanted stuff, he told me, and kept playing his computer game. My husband stopped by and asked me if he shouldn't send the son in to help out and I said, he was better off where he was and besides, isn't it okay if someone does something nice for another member of the family just out of the blue? The room looks great. It felt great to clean it and re-organize it. Plus, ds had the biggest grin when he saw it for the first time. He spent hours that day, just checking it all out and using the things he hadn't seen in months. It was great!

Another time, I came home to find that my 16 year old daughter had cleaned most of the house while I was gone—and it sparkled! She was so pleased to have given me such a nice gift! ...and I was tickled to get it. It was so sweet of her! That never happened back in the chore-list days. Ever.

I guess that I don't really feel that kids should be forced into cleaning up. Or rather, that forcing kids into cleaning up only teaches them how to avoid it. Stop asking, expect no-one to help you for awhile, make it part of the background and you'll find that eventually, they'll be willing (with no fuss) to lend a hand when you really do need it. Besides, it feels better to let go of that frustration you're carrying around with you and focus it on a really messy countertop.

You've gotta be willing to go into it with a full heart though. If you resent what you're doing, it won't work. How's that saying go? You get the most by giving?




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