I’ve heard and tried all the tips and tricks from the experts for making it easier and simpler for children to keep their toys picked up. Separate with bins, they say. Use clear totes, they say. Label with pictures. Use open containers without lids. And on and on. So I bought the totes. I separated and labeled and categorized. I organized to my hearts content. Then I stood back and reveled in awe at how easy it was for one to retrieve the dinosaurs from the Dinosaur tote, or Ninjas from the Action Guys tote. I was giddy at how aesthetic and compartmentalized everything was. In a word, it was fabulous.
But you know what? It didn’t work. Not with my 5 year old, anyway. I wasted a lot of time and energy (and money!) on various organizational systems and totes for my son. In fact, this scenario was playing out way too frequently…to the point where the closing scene was no longer me standing there with giddiness, but frustration and irritation with my son. WHY is it so hard to put the blocks in the BLOCK bin? WHY is it so hard to put the ARMY GUYS back in the ARMY GUY bin?! But try as I might, once his toys were out, he could not figure out how to get them all put away. It was too overwheming for him to process what to do first and where things should go, no matter how beautifully labeled, separated and organized I made the whole process (and believe me, it was beautifully labeled and organized).
Was I expecting too much of him to put things away where they belong? I don’t think so. But I did, however, need to take a step back and reevaluate my execution. Not only was it excruciatingly painful for me, it was causing a lot of unnecessary conflict with my son.
I began to realize that some things that matter to me do not matter to him.
Like, at all. It did not matter one iota to him if his army men were tangled up with his dinosaurs or his blocks were mingled in with his ninjas. He seemed to be able to find what he was looking for just fine anytime he wanted to play with his toys.
You see this mess right here? “Tidy up,” I said, testing out my new theory. “Clothes in the hamper, blankets on the bed, AND TOSS ALL THE TOYS IN THE TOTE!!!”
I stood back and peeked from around the door and was amazed. What used to take him literally all day to clean, sprinkled with dragging feet and tantrums, now took maybe all of 5 minutes to clean.
Huh. That went rather well.
Slowly, I began to realize that maybe I was putting too much importance on some things. I began to realize that some things that matter to me, really shouldn’t matter. Because really, what’s more important? The floor getting picked up or battling it out on that mole hill of having *his* toys put away the way that *I* want them put away? Both ways end up with a clean floor, but one of those ways is very painful and the other way is the path of least resistance.
Hmm. You know that moment when you totally forgive your parents for parenting you and your siblings completely different? And that maybe one approach for all your very different children with very different personalities is ridiculously old school and doesn’t actually fit reality? That would be me right then, having that moment. I realized that for this particular child, a good old fashioned toy bin is what works with him. Sure, all the army guys and mega blocks and ninja turtles figurines are all jumbled together. Sure, it makes me twitchy just thinking about all those things hanging out together in chaos in one bin, all day long and all night long. Sure, I may or may not have lost a little bit of sleep just thinking about all those toys together in the bin, but you know what? It works for him. And he’s a happier kid for it. And I’m a happier mom. And for this situation, that’s all that matters. Sometimes, we just need to forget what the “experts” say and just go with the flow, Mama.
Here’s to a Happy New Year, and to learning to take charge by relaxing and going with the flow.