I’m taking a break from yelling at my children to sit down and breathe deeply and count to ten. Or maybe ten million.
Last night I came up with a shockingly simple premise, and I even laid it out for them before bed so that there would be no surprises today: If the playroom gets picked up in the morning so that a person can actually, I don’t know, WALK IN THERE without tripping on or otherwise stomping and breaking things, we will go see Happy Feet at the theater this afternoon. I may have even offered to buy popcorn.
I will give you three guesses—though the first two don’t count—as to how the cleaning is going.
There is some basic background one needs to appreciate the gravity of this situation:
One: I hardly ever take the kids to the movies. We rent DVDs, yes, but the big-screen experience is something we don’t get very often. To say that this offer is a treat is rather like saying that Satan is slightly unpleasant.
Two: The so-called playroom is a converted all-season porch, perhaps 10 or 12 feet square. It isn’t a particularly large room. And all I ask is that the toys be picked up, the books put away, and the trash cleared out. I did not set them loose in the palace ballroom with buckets and grout brushes and tell them that I wish to see my reflection in the floor.
Three: I used to enforce a nightly tidying of the playroom before bed, and it made everyone miserable. The current rule is “You can do whatever you want in there as long as I can close the door and ignore it—provided that it doesn’t involve food and, therefore, bugs—but you acknowledge and accept that periodically I will Flip Out and demand that you set the room to rights or I will do it for you, and my method involves large garbage bags.”
Four: It has been well over a month since I last flipped out per the rule laid out in Three, above.
Now, you might read through the above items and surmise that my children were right now cleaning up. Perhaps you would allow for a bit of grumbling, and a few moments of horseplay, but overall: Cleaning. Because: Movie! With popcorn!
But you would be so, so wrong. Here is what my children have been doing for the past hour, despite my continued exhortations—growing more purple-faced by the moment—to just. do. what. I. asked. already:
Chickadee has tied a trash bag around her waist, apron-style, and has thrown exactly four pieces of paper into it. Three of those she dangled in Monkey’s face, first, with an accompanying taunt (“This was yours but I’m throwing it aaaaa-waaaaaay!”) and an evil cackle.
Monkey has come to me crying, three times, to wail that Chickadee is throwing away his things.
Chickadee has discovered the blood pressure cuff from the old doctor set, attached it to her wrist, and announced to no one in particular that she has to stop and check herself, fifteen times.
Monkey has discovered four missing bottlecaps and recounted, Rainman-style, where each came from and why it is important and why he’s so so so so SO happy that he found it.
Chickadee has had to stop and rest, multiple times, because it’s hard work, checking your blood pressure repeatedly.
Three times Monkey has brought me pieces of dismantled and/or destroyed toys and asked me to find the missing parts and then had a small meltdown when, each time, I intoned “If you do not take care of your toys, you will have broken toys.”
Four times I have had to storm the playroom to separate them, bodily, because they’d gotten into a grabbing match over some coveted piece of… something. Usually garbage.
Twice I have caught them just scooping up junk and dumping it into the nearest bin, and twice I have broken up games they started playing when they found enough pieces of something to become distracted.
And now I am going to lock them in there and go to the movies by myself. They can come out when I can see my reflection in the floor.
Too bad there’s carpet in there, huh?