Battle of the bedroom cleanup

When life reads like a soap opera script


Hammina Green


ReaderEssay To clean, or not to clean: That is my weekend dilemma. Between the piles of laundry, the stacks of dishes and, of course, the endless sweeping, vacuuming and dusting, when do I fit in the kids’ bedrooms?

I have only two days to make my house look livable again, so wouldn’t it be fair to make my kids clean the rooms they sleep in? The truth of the matter is, I become more frustrated—and use up more energy—when I have my children clean their own rooms than when I do it myself. It’s like watching a bad version of “Full House” where I am Danielle Tanner, the female version of Danny Tanner:

Child enters kitchen, where mother is cleaning.

Child: “My room is clean. Can you check it?”

Mom: “Already? OK.”

Walk, walk, walk. Mom enters child’s room.

Mom: “Why is there a pile of laundry behind your door?”

Child: “Oops!”

Studio audience laughs. Mom returns to kitchen.

Two minutes pass. Child enters kitchen again.

Child: “My room is done. Can you check it?”

Mom: “Are you sure?”

Child: “Yep.”

Mom (doubtfully): “OK ... ”

Walk, walk, walk. Pull-push, pull-push, pull-push.

Mom: “Why are the clothes now stuffed in all your dresser drawers?”

Child (proudly): “I put them away!”

Mom: “Are these even clean?”

Child (with a shrug): “Sure.”

Studio audience laughs.

Mom: “I don’t think so, kiddo. You better sort through these.”

Walk, walk, walk. Mom returns to kitchen.

Two minutes pass.

Child (yelling from bedroom): “Mom, can you come check my room?”

Studio audience laughs.

And this continues for the next two hours. Now, I know I can clean that room myself in 20 minutes flat, but then there is always a midmorning drama that ensues. It’s my favorite episode of “The Young and the Useless,” and it goes a little something like this:

Child enters bedroom.

Child: “Mom, what are you doin’?”

Mom: “What does it look like? I am cleaning your room.”

Child: “But, Mom, what are you doing with those?”

Mom: “You mean these little pieces of paper all over your bedroom floor? I’m throwing them away.”

Child: “What?! Those are the Princess Pinky cards I made! How can you throw those away? They’re collector’s editions! They’re worth billions of dollars!”

Please envision the 50 or so little scraps of notebook paper with random squiggly lines and barely legible words. I could send the kids on a play date, just to get them out of the house all together, but that’s when Dr. Phil shows up, in the form of my husband:

Husband walks past child’s room and peeks inside.

Husband: “What are you doing?”

Wife: “I’m cleaning the kids’ rooms today. Want to help?”

Husband: “Do you realize what you are really doing?”

Wife: “Other than dusting?”

Husband (crossing arms over chest): “You are handicapping our children.”

Wife: “What?”

Husband: “You are making them dependent. Today it’s their mother cleaning their bedrooms, five years from now it’s her boyfriend and his girlfriend. Ten years from now it’s a bottle of vodka they are using to escape their responsibilities.”

Wife: “This is not vodka, it’s Windex!”

Husband (tapping a finger to his bottom lip): “Oh, I see. This is your neurotic need to be in control ... ”

As you can see, I am darned if I do, so maybe I just don’t.

Remember when we were kids and we thought we would never gripe at our kids? We had these ideals that hugs and kisses were more important than messy floors and overstuffed closets. I remember always thinking, “One day I will have children, and I will let them keep their room any way they want to, because they are the ones who will have to live in it.”

I think from now on there will be a new rule in our house. All bedroom doors stay closed—especially when we have company. And if something in your room starts to smell so bad the odor is lingering out in the hallway, then it must be Daddy’s turn to help you clean your room. 

Hammina Green lives in Lockport with her husband, Kawi, and four children: Melanie, 11; Trenton, 9; Susan, 2; and Kamea, 5 months. She begs them to clean every single day.


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