After breakfast each morning, there comes a part of our routine I call the “Morning Tidy-Up.” The children return upstairs where they are to dress themselves and make their beds. It is one of the only responsibilities in their young lives. Hugh, being yet but a youth, remains free to sit in his crib, driving trucks around and saying “Vrroooooom” to himself. Mommy generally takes a shower or puts laundry away or does some tidy-up of her own.
Norah is often exempt because she likes to make her bed in the early morning hours while she is still in it, thus saving work later. She also tends to dress herself rapidly, leaving her mostly free to play or get conscripted to help Harriet. I must have done a better job of teaching Norah both how to make her bed and how futile resistance would be, because she does it as a matter of course.
Not so the Chicken Lickin’.
When told to do her tidy-up, Harriet troops upstairs immediately. Anyone spying in the kitchen window would see a model child. (Unless that same someone then climbed onto the kitchen roof and peered in the girls’ bedroom window.) She plays, she dances, she climbs, she prances, she maketh not her bed. She visits Hugh, she visits me, she teases Norah, she dresses dollies, she invents games, she picks fights.
Sometimes I find that she has taken a step or two in the right direction, usually removing her trousers and throwing the pillow off the bed. Admonitions, warnings, frequent checks, even disciplinary steps have not yet yielded consistent and immediate bed making. She often claims that she can’t do it. This has worked well for her so far and she must hold the world record in Bed Making Lessons Received.
Usually what happens is I somehow end up “helping” and really finishing it myself or Norah ends up getting conned into doing it for her. I am aware that if I would just forgo my shower and stand faithfully over her until it is done each day, a new habit could probably be formed. I have occasionally done this. But I have not been consistent.
There have been a few occasions when she has done it fairly well. Each time she has embellished her efforts in some way. I have found every single item of clothing belonging to her and Norah torn from the hangers in the closet and laid over the bed patch-work style. (But it was made underneath.) Another time, upon finishing, it looked so appealing that she immediately ripped it open and climbed inside to celebrate. And once, I found this:
Generally, in this house, Bedtime is Bedtime. But tonight Harriet was unusually wakeful. She just kept turning up, offering me boogers on her finger and making tiny amounts of piddle in the potty . . . this is rather rare so I was patient. But finally I told her that there would be disciplinary measures taken if her person were seen or heard again. Twenty-five minutes of silence ensued. Then suddenly, there she was, marching proudly into the room.
“I’s made my bed and cleaned my whole room, all by myself!” She was completely thrilled that Norah (who had been sleeping for an hour) hadn’t helped. When I reached the girls’ room I found that the light was on, every single dolly was put carefully away in the basket and, in the midst of it all, her little bottom bunk was completely made.
It was unbelievable. The sheet was tucked in with military precision. The comforter was patted in place, her pillow was placed into the sham (hitherto she has been exempt from this task as I thought it impossible for her). On top she had placed a throw pillow and a perfectly-folded quilt.
I looked at the clock. 8:24 p.m. Just twelve hours too soon.
I brought her downstairs, unsure how to proceed and hoping to hand off the situation to Alex. I explained what had come before, and that she had not obeyed and gone to bed, but instead actually made the bed and found myself interjecting, “It was made so beautifully–” and cut off as the irony of it all struck me. I couldn’t talk or I’d laugh my head off. I motioned madly for Alex to take over behind her back (he is used to this gesture from me), but he too saw the humor in the situation. So we stood in the kitchen, trying to explain between gobs of laughter exactly how naughty she had been. Oh well.