From telling me when her diaper is wet to reminding me to get dressed after breakfast, Bella has become fascinated recently with ritual, order, and cleanliness. Ok, sometimes she strikes me as downright obsessive about such things. It drives me a little nuts when she insists about twenty times during a meal that I wipe up the “mess, mess” she’s made of her hands, the table, the front of her shirt, the floor, etc.
But I’ve been thinking it is perhaps wise to take advantage of this new stage of mess-awareness and of eagerness to be helpful to begin instilling some habits of cleaning up after herself. Habits that I hope will last for life. Not to mention that self-discipline, organization and planning are areas I find myself lacking in. I’m not an organized or efficient housekeeper and I’m discovering that instilling organizational habits with Bella helps me to get my own act together.
She’s already mastered the task of picking up her toys at the end of her bath. The fish that stack on the post get stacked, the other fish get put into the bowl as does the cup and then the bowl is placed on the edge of the tub. The foam letters and numbers get stuck to the sides of the tub and the washcloth gets hung on the faucet. And only then does she stand up for me to lift her out and wrap her in a towel. Incidentally the whole clean-up process makes getting her out of the tub much less of a struggle.
From the bath she segues neatly into her bedtime routine: daddy plays with her as he dries her off, puts on her diaper and pjs, combs her hair, brushes her teeth. Then we say prayers (she starts demanding them about halfway through the hygiene ritual) and I read her a couple of books, sing her a lullaby and tuck her into her crib with her blankies, dolly, piggy and sippy cup.
In the past couple of days I’ve started to institute a new routine: cleaning up her toys in the rest of the house before bath time. She’s already been doing some small clean-up tasks through the day as I ask her to return clothes to the drawer in her room, lids to the drawer in the kitchen, to throw things in the trash bin* and to pick up spilled food. But now I’m involving her in picking up all the various toys she’s pulled out over the course of the day and putting them in their proper place. I tried to do this a while back and she just didn’t seem ready. Now she’s quite ecstatic to pick up her shoes and go running off to put them in the proper basket in her bedroom. (I’m loving this new routine because it means I don’t have to go around tidying everything up after she’s in bed. Especially because bending over is now a process that involves much planning and deliberation as does lowering myself to the floor and getting myself up again.)
Once I’ve got this routine in place, I might try to work on setting up a similar one before her nap. Then I might try to begin doing something more along the lines of Montessori training: getting her to put away one toy before pulling out another. But right now it’s baby steps for both of us. I’m not yet ready for that level of micro-management.
She’s very perceptive and I think she’s even figured out that her pants go in the bottom drawer while shirts go in the next one up and socks go in the top drawer. She does seem to have some sensitivity about returning things to where she got them. And she has her own system of what trash belongs in what barrel. Some things must go in the bin by the desk, others must go in the bin in the living room, and some clearly belong in the kitchen trash can. I haven’t quite figured out her system, but she’ll go out of her way to fulfill her sense of what is proper.
Now I just have to remember to be consistent myself. If I’m not, she’ll never properly develop a habit, she’ll just be responding to promptings and I fear she will eventually outgrow this helpful phase.
*She likes putting things in the trash perhaps a little too much. Tonight she threw away Dom’s student loan statement before he’d had a chance to open the envelope. Fortunately we caught that one. Though I’m sure he’s sometimes tempted to toss it, actually doing so would be a BAD THING.