I’ll start off by admitting that when I was younger (think teenage years), I was not a neat freak. That’s putting it mildly. I had absorbed some lovely teenage traits – I didn’t take care of my laundry, kept dirty cereal bowls in my room, left tossed garbage on the floor…
I don’t know when it changed, exactly, but sometime after the arrival of my first son, I began cleaning. Everything. I actually kept up with bathroom cleanliness. I actually washed dishes that were unable to go in the dishwasher. I even folded laundry as soon as the dryer buzzed it’s completion. Uh-oh. Neat-freak? Just the beginning.
Then I became pregnant with my second child and all cleaning-hell broke loose. I vacuumed every nook and cranny I could think of, regularly dusted the top of the refrigerator, and meticulously kept up with every scrap of laundry. It was horrible. I don’t think I was supposed to be on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor at nine months pregnant. I even had to obsessively keep a list of things that needed to be done around the house. This could of been a horrible case of nesting, but it carried way past the arrival of my daughter.
Through all these extra-clean months, my son was a terrific helper, and I didn’t even have to ask for his help. He wanted to assist in my chores, so he helped put clothes away, helped put away clean dishes, and helped me sweep.
My neat freak-ness has slightly lessened since the birth – I had been able to overall decrease my stress levels, and in that, my cleaning obsession had also decreased (Huh, imagine that!). But now what’s left is my son’s cleaning habits.
My husband and I decided that, at three years old, my son was old enough for “chores”. We just have him do a few simple things – tidy up his room and toys, check the trashes, and give our dog her daily treat. But still, it gives him a small sense of responsibility and accomplishment. At the end of the day, he receives a star for every completed chore. And by the end of the week, all the little chore squares should be star-filled, resulting in some cash in his piggy bank.
Well, we (my husband and I) must have been particularly diligent in keeping my son up to par with his chores. Because now, when my husband and I are disregardful of the chores and try to send my son off to bed without fully completing them, it’s my son who jumps back up, absolutely terror-stricken about the forgotten car sitting somewhere in the living room. That little car just needs to be put in it’s proper place. What’s happened is that my husband and I can’t slack! Now, when we just want both kids asleep because we are bum-tired, we have to wait for my darling son to practically clean the entire house.
But his need for clean has transferred from simply bed-time to the whole day’s routine. All day long, he is pointing out my messiness. Apparently I am supposed to clean off the table the minute we are done eating lunch. If he drips something on the floor, I rush to clean it to avoid a toddler panic attack. If the snow from our shoes forms too big of a puddle, he acts as if our whole house is flooding.
Here’s some proof of his cleanliness. One of the times we went to my mother’s house, my son went into my brother’s bedroom (who was 17 years old at the time – lovely teenage habits ran his room as well) and my son told my mom that the room needed to be cleaned….. Sorry, Mom.
From what I can deduct from personal experience, it might be possible to become an accomplice to your son’s neat freak growth. If your son has the DNA that makes extreme cleanliness even a slight possibility (who knows, maybe there’s just those people out there who are simply incapable of being a neat freak), I can make an assumption that a lead example and early admission are key components. I will hop right into the position of lead example. And I’m going to guess that my son’s early admission was his helping me with my chores and doing his own chores.
So there you go. If you are desperate for a neat freak child (and it’s not too late to start – old habits die hard!), maybe my story will come of use to you. If becoming a neat freak isn’t on the top of the list of aspirations you have for your child, then take this as more of a “what not to do”. But either way, it might be something for you to ponder about.