I am seven months pregnant but I look about seven years pregnant. My bump is huge and has seriously started to restrict what I can do. If my daughter runs in front of me on the way to nursery, she gets trampled on because the blind spot caused by my bump is bigger than a four year old. It feels like there is no room left inside of me, I truly don’t know how this baby is going to continue growing in there for the next eight weeks. How much bigger can it really get when I feel stretched to capacity?
And yet, my bump seems to get bigger each week. I can’t get my shoes on easily anymore, getting out of bed is proving to be a nightly struggle and I can’t really do anything that involves bending. This is unfortunate because I recently painted my bedroom floorboards white and they need cleaning. Any jobs that involve doing anything below waist-height are simply not getting done. Don’t look at my skirting boards.
The one room in which this is proving to be quite a problem is the playroom. Oh, the playroom, how I both love and loathe the. On the one hand, it is excellent to have a room that entertains Ebony at the ungodly hour of 6am so I can get more sleep. And yet, on the other, it is quite terrible to have a room that constantly looks like it has been ransacked. And I can’t even tidy it now because all the mess is situated on the floor. Unfortunately, my four year old was born with a not-at-all-rare condition that apparently makes putting things anywhere but the floor pretty much impossible. And I am now pregnant which means lifting things off the floor is actually impossible. So we’re stuck, or we would be if I hadn’t come up with the genius idea of getting Ebony to tidy her own playroom. I know, it sounds like a big ask, but it wasn’t so hard. Here’s how to replicate my success:
1. Get up early
The tidying spirit is your worm and you’ll need to be up early to catch it. If the playroom floor is littered with all the things, then tidying the room is not going to be a quick job. You’ll need a full day ahead of you if you have any hope of tackling the toy landslide you call a playroom.
2. Suggest tidying the playroom
This is how you break the news to your child, you’ll need to do it carefully. There will be no playdates, picnics or adventures today, instead, there will only be tidying. It’s hardly good news, so tread carefully. Try to make it sound fun, use your best Mary Poppins voice.
3. Leave the room
It’s best if you leave the room. After all, you can’t help what with bending being problematic. These toys aren’t yours, leave them in your child’s capable hands. Tell your child you’ll be back soon. Now you can go and enjoy a hot drink, stare at your phone or bounce on your birthing ball. The world is your oyster.
4. Find out things have gotten worse
When it’s time to reconvene, you will invariably discover that things have gotten a lot worse in the playroom. Not only has nothing been tidied away but new toys have actually been tipped out onto the floor. If you have a human body book with a pull out full-size skeleton, you will probably find this strewn across the floor as well. Stamp on his skull as you walk past. Don’t panic. Try to stay calm. Remember, things always look worse before they get better.
5. Be Mary Poppins
Keep channeling your inner Mary and try a new tactic. Maybe your four year old is overwhelmed by all the mess (this would be understandable, there is a rotten pear on the table) and just doesn’t know where to start. Try splitting the tidying into smaller more manageable tasks. Excitedly suggest a small job to your child, such as picking up all the dressing up clothes. There are fifty costumes and they are all on the floor, maybe she could start by picking those up. Remember, keep smiling while you say it so she knows it’s going to be fun.
6. Try not to cry
By this point you probably need to pee or eat or slam your head against the wall in frustration. Go and do that now. Keep telling yourself that by the time you return, all the dressing up things will be tidied away and you’ll be able to see some carpet. Imagine how wonderful that progress will feel. It’s a nice image, isn’t it? Once 20 minutes have passed, it’s time to go and see how things are going. Try not to scream when you enter the room to discover your child dressed as a flying Elsa pirate bride wearing a dark wig and glasses whilst riding atop a unicorn with her medical bag. It may not look like tidying, but at least those costumes aren’t on the floor anymore. She can just wear them forever, problem solved.
7. Watch the show
Now that she’s gotten into character, she will probably want you to watch her show. It’s not tidying, but hey, it might speed things along. Agree to watch and then try not to howl in frustration whilst in the audience. The show will be mostly if not entirely, spinning. Just spinning. Watch it for two minutes and then start enthusiastically clapping even if your child hasn’t quite finished yet.
8. Make a vague threat
It’s nearly lunchtime and you can feel your blood sugar getting low, you need to hurry things along. It’s time to break out the vague threats. Say something about having too many toys to keep tidy and name drop your local charity shop. Believe your child when she says she’s going to tidy really quickly. Go to make lunch.
9. Lunch time
Loving prepare lunch whilst thinking about how the playroom is being tidied. Try to ignore all sounds to the contrary in the meantime. Once lunch is ready, carry it through to the playroom. Scream in agony. Not only is the room not tidy, now the lego is out and some of it has burrowed deep into your foot. Try really hard not to swear but swear anyway because lego hurts. Eat lunch next to the rotten pear whilst trying not to cry.
10. Set a good example
With improved blood sugar levels, it’s time to embrace some positivity. Remember the parenting theory you have read over the years and decide it’s time to model some good behaviour. Slump down on the floor and get to work cheerily tidying away the lego. Throw it extra hard into the tub whilst imagining that this makes the lego hurt. Feel powerful. Look up to see the effect your involvement has had on your child. Absolutely none. The dressing up clothes have been discarded on the floor again and your child has just pulled down a box of arts and craft materials causing them to spill over the floor. Use Mary Poppins voice to explain that if the playroom gets tidied quickly, there will be time to watch a movie. And eat popcorn.
11. Seek comfort online
Go into the other room to calm down. Use the opportunity to write some snarky Facebook status updates about the stress of tidying the playroom. Have a conversation on Twitter about how shit your kid is at tidying. Instagram the photo of the rotten pear. Feel better about self.
12. Become a cheerleader
Switch to a new tactic of over the top praise each time something is put away. Even if it is put away badly and in the wrong place. You have lowered your standards, that’s ok. Things just not being on the floor anymore is enough for now. That’s worth celebrating. Terrify your child by enthusiastically whooping each time she manages to pick something up off the floor.
13. Grow tired of whooping
After thirty minutes of whooping, decide to ditch that tactic. It’s not having the desired effect. Go back to threats. Throw in some pleading. Maybe cry a little, if you must.
14. Give up
Look at the clock, realise six hours have passed since operation tidy playroom kicked off and you are actually standing in a messier room than you were this morning. Hold in tears whilst looking at the drawings, beads and Playmobil strewn across the floor. Decide it’s not worth having a heart attack over. Put movie on. Eat popcorn. Await bedtime with glee.
15. Tidy it yourself
Once you’ve been through all of the above, it’s time to tidy the room yourself. Do this while your child is in bed to save yourself the humiliation of a four year old’s judgement. Tell yourself that this time you will make sure she keeps it tidy. Laugh and cry at the same time. Think about wine.