When we went on ‘holiday’ recently to Cornwall* we tried to just let go and not do any tidying up. Just leave the toys where they fell and when the kids woke up let them pick up where they left off. But it doesn’t work like that. Kids will only find other tidy stuff and dismantle that instead – I honestly don’t know where they’d stop: plates? Brickwork? Each other?
It also began to drive us nuts.
The chaos, the destruction, it’s too much. Maybe cavemen were slobs and tidiness is a modern construct borne of Edwardian values and social aspiration. But everywhere I go, no matter what country or culture, everyone tries to keep their gaff tidy. It just seems to make sense to know where your gear is so that when you next need it you don’t have to spend hours looking for it. It’s time management really. My kids don’t get that because they don’t get time yet, I guess.
We have tried – still trying – to instill tidy-up time into our children, but I don’t consider it helpful to have a die-cast Thomas the Tank Engine arcing across the living room towards a box that I am trying to fill with other die-cast Thomas’s (those die-cast thomas’s are like bits of shrapnel). Sometimes DS is really good and does help, in his own way, and we do the job together. But tidy-up-time is still predominantly an adult chore.
So, my list of ultimate, high impact, pain-in-the-arse things to clean up are:
- Rice Crispies (also rice)DD can’t say much as yet, but she can force herself to utter the word crispies before the word Daddy every morning. The problem with Rice Crisipies is that each bowl contains around 80,000 individual crisipies and in the hands of my DD are like claymores. Every morning I hunker under the table forlornly working with a dustpan and brush and cursing the Kelloggs employee who thought to bring in a packet of Uncle Ben’s and start experimenting with it.
- Poster Paint I’m a creative and I want my kids to paint, to express themselves, to – yes – get a bit messy. But, boy, does it create carnage. What amazes me is how little time it takes. In under two minutes our two little darlings recreate the set of a Saw film, with every inch of the dining table slathered in paint. But not pretty spots of red, yellow and blue; oh no, they like to mix it into a dysentry/chemical-spill colour that is part purple, part diarrhea and then when they have got bored of this studiously prepared and thought out activity they wander off around the house leaving little finger prints and smears of paint everywhere. Felt tips. For all you non parents reading this, repeat after me: felt tips, felt tips, felt tips…
- Technical Lego When did our favourite Danish toy company start making nano technology? This lego is so small that some bits are not visible to the naked eye. I got a set as a semi-ironic birthday present and never opened it but my son discovered it, ripped it open and the contents exploded out like he’d just popped a hoover bag. That was nearly 2 years ago and we are still finding bits. Just to be scientific, I tried to actually make something with this lego and it was impossible, it was like making computer circuits. What is wrong with bricks? What? Just tell me!
- Weetabix Weetabix is bad enough dry, creating a mini crumb mountain with the slightest tremor. But wet, Weetabix transforms into an altogether different material; an epoxy like material that I am sure could be put to better use…like re-pointing brickwork…or lining the Space Shuttle’s fuselage for re-entry. `There are sections of our wooden floor that are half Weetabix / half wood cyborg. Keeps me awake at night, it does.
- Vomit Under fives, I think, are more like pissed-up nineteen year olds than anything else. Slurred language, inane conversations, propensity to fall over a lot, liking of shit music and also the ability to casually chunder without any real warning. DW hates cleaning up vomit as it make her feel like vomiting…a bit like someone yawning in the same room…which is exactly like vomiting except for the macerated cheerios, rice cakes and apple juice, obviously.
- Poo When I hear the sentence: nappy off time, my blood runs cold. DD gets a little twinkle in her eye and before you can say where’s the pampers? I am pulling wet wipes out like a magician on speed. No matter what anyone says about baby poo being different or when it’s your own children’s poo it doesn’t matter, it does matter. Poo is poo. Think Weetabix but with one false move your kids could get a gastro-vomit bug thingy or you could get cholera. Maybe not, but you know what I mean.
* This is the last British holiday we will ever do. Sitting on a freezing beach, wearing a jacket, making sand castles that struggle to retain any structural integrity due to the force 9 gale bending the wind-break nearly 45˚as your freezing children peel their tongues off of the ice creams that have frozen to a hardness of metal is not my idea of a good time. As my wife pointed out, when you shop in a French supermarket you keep that holiday feeling, but Tescos in Padstow is just Tesco in another part of Britain.