Catharty-ism14 March 2014
My children’s discipline is a constant source of frustration to me. I’ve spent the last few years being consistent in my approach to it, even with the obvious discord it engenders. I’ve honestly thought I’ve being doing the right thing. Apparently not.
Today though, something remarkable happened…
For a long time I’ve been threatening (yes!) to throw toys away. My wife hates the idea and, even when I’ve implemented the threat in the past it’s ultimately failed for a number of reasons - not limited to rescuing whatever’s in the bin or forcing (yes!) me to do it. I’ve apparently been unreasonable.
Perspective may be a worthwhile thing to introduce at this point?
We’re overrun with toys of all shapes and sizes, spent paper & card, paint pots & brushes, pens & pencils. Every room in the house apart from the ‘master’ bedroom, toilets and bathroom has mess wherever the girls (nearly 7 & 4) finish what they’re doing. Bedrooms are occasionally, in a very real sense, impassable - bedclothes, dressing-up clothes, toys strewn across the floor, beads and sharp pointy things underfoot to cause maximum discomfort to unwary adults.
One of the very worst things to deal with is the horrendous number of stickers that appear on every surface in the house. They stick to furniture, floors, are run through the washing machine, clog the vacuum cleaner, stick to work clothes, to bare feet and cats…
It’s been going on, as I mentioned above, for a few years now and despite my best efforts the lessons I’ve been trying to teach simply haven’t sunk in. It would be fair to say that my wife and I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on matters of child discipline. You could say I’ve gone way past the point of being reasonable about it, but without any visible improvement using other methods (naughty step included) I thought it would eventually pay off.
Today though I’d just had enough. I’d asked the girls to get all of their art stuff together and make a pile of it, and put everything else in another pile. We’d then figure out between us what to keep and what to throw out. It worked until I figured out I’d got in the way - at which point I’d made the mistake of believing both girls’ suggestions they’d have it done soon.
An hour later, and 2-1/2 hours in to the exercise, and after frequent reminders I gave up. No, I hadn’t expected concentration for that amount of time, there’d been breakfast, juice, a bit of telly as a temporary reward…
So, all of the stuff not already sorted into the ‘art stuff’ pile went in bin bags, ditto all of the other toys. All this while the girls watched and asked awkward questions.
Then, the remarkable thing: my wife didn’t stop me, nor did she suggest the toys shouldn’t be binned. You could have slapped me down with a small wet fish! Amazing!
To spare my oldest daughter the pain of seeing her toys going into bags my wife decided to take her shopping - there’s a rather important milestone-y family birthday party next weekend, and we’d also nearly run out of ketchup! My youngest daughter can still be bribed with TV, so that’s what happened whilst I ‘tidied up’ in the back of the kitchen.
The back of our kitchen has in the past been called ‘The Morning Room’ (previous owners) and by us ‘The Breakfast Room’ (though we’ve never really used it as such), and now it’s ‘The Area’ (christened thus by the girls) for art and general messing around. It’s been allowed to fill up with colouring books, sticker rolls, beads, aprons, discarded paint pots, brushes, and especially completed works of art…
So all the paper and card and felt and plastic went in bin bags, and with it anything I deemed unusable. Anyone more sentimental than I would have baulked at destroying their children’s precious memories, but not man-of-steel here, no. I thought about the implications, of course.
My wife and oldest daughter returned home from the shop some time after I’d finished. I helped with the unpacking, feeling good about something for the first time in a week-and-a-half.
We had another brief chat about what I’d done, she suggested sorting through the toys later - a not unreasonable thing to do given the circumstances - and I put the last bits of shopping away.
You could say that the morning had occasioned a cathartic response in me, the result of which is the 4 (yes four) bin bags (items taken only from the front & dining rooms and ‘The Area’) waiting next to the outer door in the utility room for my wife to sort out later. And, more-importantly for my sense of well-being, a sense of a job well-done and a feeling of an achieved consensus.
The very last item out of the very last shopping bag - another pack of stickers.