Boy [boi] noun 1. noise with dirt on it 2. wildest of all animals
There are certain household tasks that I avoid like the plague. I will close the proverbial door and tell myself out of sight out of mind. That is until the chaos becomes the monster multiplying overnight. The “not now” and the “I’ll do it later” catch up with me. My anxiety builds to the point where I know something has to be done. Since we have not hit it big with the Powerball at our house, I accept the fact that I’m only punishing myself for letting this build up to the point I go crazy.
It is nothing like scrubbing toilets (though I’d avoid that if I could) or washing windows or vacuuming or mopping. Once again, until we hit it big with the Powerball or become independently wealthy I know I have to do my share of household chores. The task I am talking about is cleaning P’s room. When he was younger, I was the one who cleaned and tidied his room. I picked up trinkets and tossed them in the trash. You know what they say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” But, as he has gotten older, he has picked up on me smuggling crap out of his room. So, the task was transferred to him to clean his own room. The problem with that though is he doesn’t see anything wrong with chaos, dust, overflowing trash can, strewn legos, and game pieces. My job is more of getting him to see it is time to do the job of cleaning up.
I do this with three phases. The first phase is gentle reminders of “It would be easier to find your game if all the pieces were put together.” Or, “man, I would like to vacuum your room one of these days.” The second phase is adding it to his daily schedule that hangs in his room. Once it is on the schedule, the task is non-negotiable. The third phase is when we get to the actual day.
In my book, cleaning day in P’s room is a tough gamble, because well, what kid willing and happily cleans his room and the ADHD that is a significant player in Peter’s daily life. Cleaning can be met with impulsivity, anger, or doubt. The task is overwhelming to P. To him, he is tasked with cleaning the whole entire household instead of just his modest bedroom. On this day, P accepted the fact that the time had come. He asked me, “What should I do first?” That is him trying to prioritize because juggling multiple tasks at once is overwhelming to P. I suggest maybe he start by picking up his books to put back into his bookshelf. He contemplates that for a moment and asks me, “Can you do that? I would like to start by picking up legos.” I think to myself, “Oh thank god, legos are like glitter to me.” (Glitter is the devil. But, I digress and will save that for another post on another day.) I crawled around the floor piling up the books that had been displaced over the last several months. I watch P as he looked at the legos that have been placed in meaningful piles. He is debating how to pick up the collections. Is it lego people vs. bricks? Then what happens to the swords and extra pieces? What about my legos that are made into something?
As soon as P was engrossed in solving the lego dilemma, I decided to smuggle out the single magazine sheets that P ripped out from the Lego magazines he receives in the mail. I also smuggle out the ripped and crumpled Lego instruction booklets. It was until the about the third trip that P questions me, “Mommm, what are you doing?” I explained to him that he hasn’t looked at the ripped and crumpled papers for months and it was time to get rid of them. Then I got hit with,”B-b-bbut they are important to me?” Everything is important to him. Like really, really important. He really struggles to distinguish from non-important (i.e., crumpled ripped papers, broken crayons, dried up markers) vs. important (lego sets, toys, game card to the pizza place in town.) P struggled to stay on task instead of focusing on the papers that I had just tossed in the garbage. That is why we ended up with me pulling out my hair and him doing deep breathing exercises to prevent an anxiety attack.
How can something so simple send us both over the edge? I let P have a moment while he calmed his anxieties. I pondered over how to help P with the executive reasoning skills. I reassured him that I wouldn’t throw anything else away without his permission. I asked P to focus on one task at a time. Legos first, Beyblades second, collections of playing cards, bouncy balls, matchbox cars are third. One by one P worked his way through the tasks organizing, sorting, and putting away the collections. Holy moly! That child believes in the power of a collection. It is repetition. Repetition helps P organize in his own way. Repetition helps P with his math skills. He used to like to collect cotton and pizza tables. He has now moved on to bouncy balls, foils, and most interestingly state magnets. The last one is definitely one I can get behind! Finding a container to keep his collections together proved tricky for him due to self-doubt that had crept in. He wondered would it be OK? He wondered if he would like it? As much as I wanted to help him, but I knew my suggestions would not be helpful and cause him distress. I wanted him to feel proud to be making the decisions. I told P that he would be happy when the job was completed. He did agree that he would be happy to know where all his toys were when he wanted to play with them. Amen! One lesson accomplished in all of this madness.
One hundred twenty-three minutes later, P’s room was clean. Here is the after picture. Now the question is how long will it last this way?
All my best to you,