If you ever need proof of the second law of thermodynamics, then you should live with children under the age of five. This law states that all things tend toward disorder naturally increasing entropy.
This is most evident after cleaning our home. Kids affect the “entropy” immediately. Any order created by putting things in their proper place, vacuuming, washing, etc. can be turned into a complete mess within seconds. Clean clothes are just waiting for a spill or to get unfolded. Yogurt covered hands will most certainly end with hand prints on the windows and mirrors. Eating Nutella or spaghetti are recipes for disaster. Toys get strewn about all over the house.
To help combat this issue, I now choose the toys I purchase for our kids by certain important qualities. I ask myself the following questions before making my choices:
1. Does it make any sort of noise? Play drum sets, flutes, whistles, and electronics with annoying buzzer sounds are out. Anyone giving my children these kinds of toys is no longer a friend of the family.
2. How many microscopic pieces are present or are there more than two parts to the toy? Arianna has some small princess dolls. Each individual doll has little plastic shoes, jewelry, a crown, clothes and accessories. These parts are constantly found throughout the home. In fact, the favorite activity of my daughters with regard to dolls seems to be to undress them and leave the clothes all over the home. I’ll find a bin full of naked princesses and later find their outfits under the couch, in the play oven, used as a bookmark, etc. Decks of cards and puzzle pieces stay ordered for approximately 45 seconds before they are bent, lost, or strewn about the home. Puzzles can be built once. Any subsequent attempt to put it together again will yield a minimum of 1 piece missing…kind of like Humpty Dumpty.
3. Does it require an infinite number of batteries? I’m convinced that kids toys and accessories that eat batteries were developed as a scam by Eveready or Duracell to sell more batteries. For a while we had a baby swing that required 20 Triple D cells for operation… the equivalent of a small nuclear power plant. Can we get wind generators for the toys?
4. Does it require an advanced degree to remove it from the box? I’m really glad I went to school for electrical engineering. Removing toys from boxes at Christmas is like diffusing a bomb. “Get me the wire cutters honey!”
If the toy fails any of these tests, it’s less of an option. OK…in reality…we do allow the kids to play quite a lot.
The other day, finger painting sounded like a good idea to keep the kids busy in a creative activity. About 20 minutes later my wife checked on the girls to find that they had completely covered themselves (instead of the paper) with finger paint. What fun! It was now finger…hand, hair, arm, leg, and face paint.
So my wife finally realized her dream of being a CIA agent as she said “Hands up in the air. Nobody move!” As we were cleaning them up I thought to myself “I wish I had taken a photo of that. Now I’ll have to stage the photo later.”
I’ve found that I need to resist the need to be clean all the time. Sometimes letting things be messy for a while helps them to get cleaned up better in the end. This is really a struggle for me. I’m kind of an organization and neat freak with tendencies toward perfectionism. I have a Dymo Letra Tag label maker that I hold in a holster. (Only use the plastic tape.) I build custom databases where every piece of information requires a place.
Life is about getting all messy and then cleaning up. As much as we desire to protect our kids and keep things neat, sometimes we have to let them make mistakes and get into messes on their own to learn a lesson.
Being around kids will sure help to CURE you of perfectionism…or drive you batty. I say get used to it. Life is messy. Be OK with it. You’ll have more fun.
Then one day your dream will come true like it just did a few minutes ago. My oldest daughter Arianna started cleaning up the house on her own. She said: “I want things to look shiny. If anything looks dirty, I’m going to clean it all up.” Then she proceeded to spray Windex into the DVD player. OK…two steps forward and one step back.