“It’s good, workin’. I’m happy. I love helpin’ you.”
It’s not hard to make a four-year-old happy. There are hundreds, thousands of ways. This morning it was that most reliable of kid-pleasing activities: cleaning the bathroom.
I don’t know why I forget, sometimes, how much a small child loves to help with the household tasks I least enjoy. I remember vividly my own joy when my mother first let me clean a toilet with the long-handled brush all by myself. It would have been sometime between second and fourth grade, because we were still living in the house on Uvalda Street. 767 Uvalda, I think, and what I remember most about living there is worshiping our pretty long-haired babysitter, Nadine, who lived next door and whose favorite songs were “Afternoon Delight” and “You Are the Woman I’ve Always Dreamed Of”; lugging my beloved rental cello to school across a pedestrian bridge that rose to Himalayan heights above busy Sixth Avenue; despising as the embodiment of all things evil a squirrel who ate some baby birds in a nest in our front yard; and embracing with jubilant pride the awesome responsibility of scrubbing the toilet with Comet and that Very Important Brush.
The couple of times I’ve watched that Supernanny show, I’ve had to chuckle over her earnest instruction in the use of the “Involvement Technique,” which is a concept so common-sensical one wonders that any parent needs to be formally instructed in its use. And yet I so often forget to use common sense in running the household. I can work faster if I work alone. “Allowing” children to help takes time, patience, and a high tolerance for accidents. I had more of all those things when my first child was little. But common sense says I need more help now than I did when there was only one small person underfoot. And common sense knows perfectly well that letting kids help with housework while they’re still little enough that the work is fun is the best way to ensure that they’ll be willing and able helpers when they’re older.
It’s just that common sense sometimes bails on me when I’m in a hurry.
This morning I wasn’t in a hurry. I’m trying to return to my good Flylady habits—the house is always so much pleasanter, both in terms of cleanliness & order and in terms of joyfulness of atmosphere, when I’m in the Flylady groove. After breakfast I moseyed into the bathroom to wipe down the counter and sinks. The moment my hand touched the spray bottle, Beanie materialized at my elbow.
“Can I ’pray?” she begged. Nothing, nothing appeals to a small child like a squirt bottle. Two or three Flylady grooves ago, in recognition of this fact, I oh-so-cleverly stocked every bathroom with a squirt bottle full of Don Aslett’s “light bathroom sanitizer,” which smells nice and isn’t full of harsh chemicals. I wouldn’t be comfortable turning a little kid loose with a bottle of 409 or Windex. I don’t even like to use that stuff. The Don Aslett cleanser comes in little packets of pink concentrate for you to pour into your squirt bottle and mix with water. Not to sound like a commercial—it’s just that I’m all about finding practical ways to make good ideas work. I read so many inspiring things about childraising and education, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to take those beautiful philosophies and make them functional. Which is why I post so many links and reviews here—when something works, I have to shout about it.
So here’s my shout-out for Don Aslett’s One-Step Bathroom Cleaner. Great stuff. Cheaper than 409, too.
And an unutterable delight to use, so Beanie’s sparkling eyes told me. She squirted, I wiped, she chattered away about a Father Brown story she heard on Jim Weiss’s Mystery Mystery CD—and I had to agree with her declaration. It is good, workin’. I am happy. I love helpin’ her.