Having one of those mornings filled with housework: cleaning, dishes, organizing, laundry – you name it, I am begrudgingly doing it. Quick question: does anyone else have children who insist on wadding up CLEAN clothes in with their DIRTY clothes? Sometimes the clean items are still nicely folded – do they honestly think I won’t notice? And another question that has been bugging me all morning: why do toilet bowl cleaning products advertise their product kills 99% germs? Who cares if there are germs in the toilet? We don’t eat or even touch the inside of a toilet – and in fact, even the typical tool used to clean said appliance is really long – so we don’t even come close to touching it while cleaning it, right? So what’s the big deal here? If I don’t kill those germs in my toilet will they uprise and invade the rest of my home? Maybe we should be closing and barricading our bathrooms doors, as opposed to buying expensive cleaning products with these silly proclamations of keeping us safe by killing said invaders?
Anyway, back to my morning of housecleaning. I’ll admit that a secret part of me enjoys it, and in fact we’ve turned down multiple offers to help me with household matters. I don’t like cleaning toilets or doing the dishes per se, but I honestly like organizing and ensuring our family lives in a clean, comfy and relaxing home. And yes I am also one of those freaks who LOVE to rearrange furniture periodically. Frankly, I don’t understand how people can live so stagnantly by not changing it up every once in awhile. The house we are currently renting is beautiful – in fact, when we picked it the house was pretty much completely gutted on the inside since they were in the midst of remodeling. Even so, hubby and I loved the yard, the layout of the house and the street it’s on. Settling into this home has brought me a lot of joy; listening to the girls laugh and play in the other rooms, cooking in the kitchen, listening to the rain hit the roof, enjoying the views out of every window. With a couple of exceptions, we have enjoyed every day in this home and look forward to the coming months of continuing to do so.
But, enjoying this house doesn’t stop the dust from settling, the dishes from getting dirty and the laundry from piling up – so away I go (quick admission here, when I say “laundry” I mean just the children’s laundry – I am probably one of the ONLY women in the entire world whose husband does the laundry – folds and puts it away, too. I know, ladies: eat your hearts out. And you should see how beautifully he folds. It’s like he works at The Gap or something – it’s a work of art… so when I’m complaining about doing laundry, it’s only the kids’ clothes).
But doing JUST the children’s clothes is a lot of hard work, BELIEVE ME. They stick everything and anything in their dirty laundry basket: clean clothes, books, papers, cat toys – it’s ridiculous – I’ll even find FOOD and apparently the threat of cockroaches still isn’t enough to get them to keep their rooms clean. Anytime we tell them to clean up I’m realizing that all they are doing is shoving things into their laundry baskets. So this morning as I’m folding items right-side-out, sorting clean from dirty and organizing the non-clothing items out entirely, I’m realizing that yet again, they are training me – not the other way around. While doing this chore, I’m organizing a lengthy lecture in my head that I will be subjecting my kids to the ENTIRE ride home from school today about listening and cleanliness and organization and germs and cockroaches… okay, not about the last two – but I’m gearing up mentally for a Pulitzer-prizing winning speech to unleash on my kids that will FINALLY get them to reply (tearfully and sincerely, no doubt): “you are totally right, mom – we promise not to make any messes any more and will only put dirty clothes into the hamper and promise to be cleaner and one day hope to be just like you and maybe also so we can work at The Gap”.
We all know that’s not going to happen. So I mentally switch gears from lecturing the kids to writing this blog, but also, it’s making me realize how hubby and I have mentally switched gears as parents since we’ve arrived here.
As hard as it is to adjust to a new country and home as an adult – we worry about how our two children are adjusting. Obviously as a family unit we have many tools to utilize to ensure our children are doing okay – those aren’t any different no matter where we live. But here, unlike home, we are trying to realize the stress and strain it must be on two children to undertake an adventure like we are. Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to admit that my two children are doing WAY better at this than I am, but still, they are kids. With kid problems and kid concerns and kid stress. When they come home from school each day, they’ve had to deal with teachers and kids they can’t communicate with due to language; they’ve had to deal with the social implication of being foreigners and again, the language barrier; they have a much harder curriculum here which is great but means they have more work, more responsibilities, double Spanish homework (considering our private tutoring at home which reminds me they have a test tonight). Just like hubby and I, they miss their friends and family. I bet when I pick them up from school each day they both are just mentally exhausted. As they climb into the car to come home should I just allow them to start to relax after a day at this foreign school, or do I go ahead with my parental duties and planned lecture in trying to teach them the values of cleanliness and responsibilities?
Preparing for this undertaking on moving to Mexico – one item we heard from just about EVERYONE was “what a great opportunity this was going to be for our two girls”. What a life-time experience for them. Now that we’ve been here for three months, and are actually LIVING it, how do I ensure that this IS and WILL BE the once-in-a-lifetime experience for our two kids that everyone raved about? How do I guarantee that my two girls are soaking up all the culture, all the action, all the cultural understanding that we signed up for? This past weekend we got into the car to do some exploring. Our oldest daughter brought along a book – and rather than look out the window admiring and soaking in the new sights to see – she sat quietly in the backseat reading her book. What’s a parent to do in this situation? One one hand, you know: she’s READING! But on the other, she’s not soaking up the sights, sounds and culture that everyone told me she was sure to get. Is this entire cultural adventure already doomed to fail because she doesn’t want to look out the window? Maybe an easy solution to this would be to simply get her a book on Mexico – she can read that, at least… but you get my point. We hope that this positive experience will come naturally to our two girls – without us demanding that they look out the window.
But regardless of their reading material and custodial needs, I will tell you that in the grand scheme of where we are right now and this adventure we are undertaking, the fact that the girls don’t sort out their clothes properly isn’t something I’m going to make a big deal of. I’m thinking that right now, if they don’t make their beds EVERY morning – it might not be that big of deal. Right now we’re happy to cut them a little slack, and if that means we’re slacking off on our parenting duties, then I guess we can accept that.
I’m not sure how long we’ll provide the girls with this “slack”. At some point I’m sure we’ll pass a milestone where this allowance becomes more of a hindrance – because in my opinion, kids are just like wild animals: if they sense weakness they will go for the throat – and by that I mean they will never make their beds or sort their laundry or help me battle the toilet germs. Like all good parents, I really hope my husband and I can recognize that point – allowing our girls to adjust, giving them slack when they need it – and a toilet brush with cleaning instructions when they don’t.