“We’re going to have a little family cleaning lesson tomorrow,” I announced this evening. Halfway between the foot of the stairs and our bedroom door, I was talking to David. But hoping my air of patient authority was wafting back up the stairs to my kids.
“Are you talking to me?” David called from our doorway, toothbrush in mouth.
I was sailing by him at this point, heading straight for my pajamas. “I’ll tell you after you get out of the shower.”
And here’s what I plan to tell him: that I just went upstairs to put the kids to bed. And I walked into the boys’ room and got no more than 1.25 steps inside when I saw the clutter strewn across the floor. Over the top of the dresser, onto the chair, back up to the desk, and across their bunk. Like Christmas garland, guys. I swear there was a string attached and these gremlins, called my children, considered this decoration.
Only four days earlier, this room had been presented to them, immaculate, by St. Marta (more on her in a minute), and I had admonished them, upon their arrival from school that day, to keep it clean. I read to them that night, and we all basked in the glow of a decluttered room: so peaceful, so nice.
AND NOW THIS!
Freeze that shot. I am at the crossroads any other parent will recognize. I am standing at the corner of Losing My Cool Street, and Patient Loving Parent Lane. You’re nodding? You know that intersection well, too?
Holy Spirit and a glass o’ chardonnay, y’all, I picked the latter. For the first time.
Now, as a parent trying to lead with grace, I’ll grant them this: two of those days were weekend days, with lots of activities and friends. And they share a room, and we don’t have a playroom space to keep toys so we tell them to go outside and use their legs and here have a spoon go dig in the dirt. But four days! Ago! It was so CLEAN! And we TALKED ABOUT IT! They were commissioned (with humor! with enthusiasm!) to go into the world and keep their rooms clean!
Lest you think I’m an overlord, know this: I am a pot, married to a kettle, parenting a cupboard’s worth of kettles and a pot. I have a tendency toward clutter and I’ll be the first to tell you that I am firstborn in a long line of curatists. Cleaning has always been a battle for me, friends. It’s not that I don’t like it clean–I LOVE it clean. I just don’t naturally gravitate to the cleaning practices of domesticity. I gravitate more towards the dream-big-start-projects-make-messes-host-people-love-well domesticity. It’s not my natural inclination to run around white-gloving bathrooms all day. I mean, oh, how I wish it was.
But it’s not.
Realizing this, my husband and I have made a decision that we have often waffled on in the past, but will no longer. To keep our home sanitary, and maintain living conditions in keeping with minimally acceptable standards, we hired a housekeeper last year.
This is where St. Marta comes in. Being only recently introduced to Anglican customs, I have no idea if I am horrifically offending anyone by referring to a non-canonized person as a saint. Forgive me, if so. But she really should be one. On her first day of work, she swooped in at nine and was still cleaning at SEVEN. P. M. She’d stopped for lunch, but my goodness, I’ve never seen another human swing that much laundry, dust, and germs so fast. The dust bunnies, quaking in their boots, parted like the red sea when they saw her coming.
And we immediately asked her, almost in the form of an engraved invitation, if she would be our housekeeper next week and the rest of our lives.
My goodness, Marta has been the biggest blessing.
But I have a concern, and I think it’s legitimate: we don’t want our kids to think it’s acceptable for them not to pick up after themselves.
Children of that ilk would be called BRATS, dear readers.
That type of entitlement will not be tolerated around here. We have been given much, and much will be expected of us. We do this willingly and joyfully. We serve the people who serve us by not leaving a massive trail behind ourselves!
I said as much to my kids when I walked upstairs to find their rooms in disarray. I said it patiently, lovingly, without raising my voice. Then I raised my hands and prayed over them and told them that I would read tomorrow night IF, if if if if, St. Marta doesn’t have to deep clean their rooms tomorrow. I kissed them each on their head and walked downstairs to announce the next morning’s plans for cleaning lessons.
They’ll do it. The rooms are probably already spotless by now, and it’s only been about 30 minutes at this point. It doesn’t take long, I realized. It just takes love and accountability.
All this to say: love and accountability is a great way to lead.
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