boy, n. a noise with dirt on it

The first time I saw that quote was in an Uppercase Living catalog a few years ago. Then it cropped up on Pinterest and just last week I saw it on Facebook. Isn’t it so true? Buried somewhere beneath the noise and dirt lies an endless supply of hugs and love and sweetness. But if I am ever going to uncover all that sweetness, I need to find a way to live with the rest of what makes up a boy. Or four boys.

Any of these things could be just as useful in a house full of girls. Several children = chaos, no matter what the gender ratio. I just think that with boys, the chaos is magnified a bit.

Managing the Toys. This was our home, all day, every day just a few months ago: “Whose Legos are these? Please pick up the Legos.” 15 minutes later the Legos are still there. “Didn’t I say pick up the Legos??” 3 hours later, “PICK UP THE BLASTED LEGOS!!!” At bedtime, I’m picking up Legos and muttering to myself about how irresponsible my boys are. NO MORE. Now, we have a box we call the treasure chest. It is in the living room where I find the majority of the forgotten messes.  If I see something lying around, I ask that it be put away one time. If it is still there in 10 minutes, I put it in the treasure chest. Anything left out at bedtime goes in the chest. If they want it back, they have to do a chore for me. Washing windows, dusting, wiping baseboards… whatever I may see that needs doing. And there is plenty that needs doing at our house. I think it would be brilliant to have a big clear container to use for this, like maybe one of those giant cheese puff containers from Sam’s Club. That way all the treasures are easy to see and tempting to get back.

The doing chores for me idea is working so well that I’m starting to find other ways to use it. If they do one of their chores halfway, or forget to do it, I’ll do it. And then they can do one of my chores. To do this well, I think I need a ready list of jobs that need to be done.

Managing the Laundry. A while back I wrote about our laundry system. It has worked very well for us until recently. My bedroom is the only place in our house that is big enough for laundry folding. When the pile of laundry became so big that my queen size bed couldn’t hold it all, I decided it was time to move on to phase two. My oldest two (9 and 11) are doing their own laundry now. One of them is the type that will wear 3 shirts in one day and put them all in the laundry, dirty or not. The other is the type that will wear the same shirt for 3 days and call it clean. Both were driving me crazy! I decided to stop trying to change them and let them handle their own clothing habits. After a few days of basic washing instruction, they were able to handle it completely on their own. There are 3 rules. They only get to wash on Tuesdays and Fridays (the days I don’t wash). They must put the clothes away on the day they were washed. They must have something clean, decent, and unwrinkled to wear to church. Now I know very well that if I went to their room right now I would find inside-out shirts hanging on hangars, drawers not organized, clothes not folded. But this is where I have to pick my battles, be grateful that the shirts are hung up at all, and not venture in their room too often. My 5 year old is still sorting his own laundry for me to wash on my laundry days. Then I fold, and he puts them away.

Managing the Bathroom.  They are responsible for tidying up their bathroom every night. I keep a tub of baby wipes in the cabinet for them to use. The boy assigned to the job that day starts by wiping the faucet, then the counter and sink, then the toilet handle, then the toilet seat and rim. Then the wipe goes in the trash. Now, I know very well that their bathroom is not Martha Stewart clean after that. And I do clean it thoroughly now and then. But it is clean enough that when I do clean it, I don’t have to wear a gas mask. And if the occasion arises that I (or a guest) have to use that bathroom, it is tolerable.

Next month I’ll post about how we manage the noise.