Anyone who has set foot into a mommy and me class or preschool program knows the diddy, “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody do your part! Everybody do your share!” I’ve sung it cheerfully, emphatically, operatic-style and like a rap. It is totally ineffective. To get them helping, I’ve come to my own methods. My least favorite chore? Dishes. If my boys assist with the dishes, my inner feminist is satisfied.
A couple months ago, as I finished up a bottle of if-you-get-this-in-your-eyes-call-poison-control spray cleaner, I rinsed it out, filled it with water, added a couple tablespoons of plain vinegar and handed it to Mingus. It was an immediate hit. We have scrubbed pots and loaded the dishes together countless times. He sprays, I scrub. Even when I do the dishes alone, I’ve begun using the vinegar mix because it works so well. Meanwhile, Mingus totes his bottle around and sprays everything: his desk, the coffee table, Beluga’s high chair, the shower…. anything exhibiting stickiness or grime. When Beluga lobbed a blob of yogurt at my shirt, Mingus aimed the bottle towards me. I shouted, “Don’t spray me!” It’s taken a while to divide the home between wipeable and un-wipeable objects.
Another pitfall: an omnipresent vinegar aroma. At least until I invented my own cleanup diddy. To the tune of Fiddler On the Roof’s Matchmaker, I sing: “Messmaker, messmaker, are you making a mess?” He thinks it’s hilarious and immediately wipes the droplets he’s spritzed across the apartment.
With the exhuberance characteristic of a three year old, Mingus has sprayed his way through several bottles of cleaner. Right now, it’s feeling very light and this time we’re going to make the vinegar solution together. To start, he almost fills an empty spray bottle with water from the faucet.
I instruct him to unscrew the lid on a bottle of vinegar. Screwing and unscrewing is a skill he learned long ago, but it still requires a lot of effort and patience.
Mingus perches a funnel atop the open cleaner bottle so that we don’t spill the vinegar as we pour it. He counts to three as he pours.
Clearly he would like to repeat the process over and over. But I entice him on to the next step. Time to screw the sprayer on. Mingus notices, “I go around and around. It’s getting harder because it’s getting tighter.” And having done the entire job completely by himself, start to finish, his ego is satisfied.
Mingus lifts the bottle and tells me, “It’s so heavy – you should feel it now!” Taking it in hand, I suggest, “It’s about a pound.” And he says, “Let’s measure it!”
He places the bottle on our kitchen scale, points at the marker and notes, “There’s the one and it’s past the one.”
Then, Mingus starts playing with the tarring dial, giggling. He exclaims, “It’s six and a half pounds!” I tell him with a big smile, “That’s not possible!” and he erupts in laughter.