Of Dirty Socks, Rock Collections, and Jawbones

I wink at my boys’ room cleaning efforts, ordinarily. Every Thursday they hit the basement with the vacuum cleaner and the broom. If the surface is fairly serene upon inspection, I tell them it passes. But once every couple monthsย I dig in there with them. It is at those times that I wonder whether small boys are not a different species altogether. We clean out from under the bed, the dressers and the bookshelves. We wash surfaces instead of dusting them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We find stuff: nuts and bolts, tools, notebooks with secret codes, old shell casings, worn-out steak knives for throwing, cards from friends who sign their names Your Buddy. We find Legos, scores of them gone AWOL, but there they are under the pile of shoes in the closet or behind the nightstand. Today I found a stash of clean hankies (so that is where they went) and wash cloths in the boys’ sock bin. And my missing tan sock. And some little girl garments as well. There were the four purple buttons that I had put carefully in my sewing cabinet just last week. Swiping under the bed with my arm, I hit against a sticky blob, Greg’s ant trap gone bad. Ewww. Terro on a corn chip, with no ants in sight. There were stacks of books, all of which they are currently reading, of course. I totally understand that, but really, we have shelves. I was quite ruthless with the trash can and they only protested mildly. That stack of counterfeit money they have been working on? Trash can. The cat jaw bone with teeth intact? YUCK. Trash. The socks with holes in the toes, being saved for some obscure future project? Trash. Sorry, boys, but we are beating back chaos here.

I love my boys and their boy-ness. I have no objection to their treasures and collections. They replaced the cute curtain I had made for their room with a dark piece of plaid fabric and I let them. Their walls are decorated entirely with original artwork tacked in no particular pattern and I do not mind. But I do remember my 10 year old self thinking boys are kind of gross, and now I know why. At that age they are. We are at the stage where they would happily live in the same clothes, day and night, all week with nary a bath or hair wash in the entire time. I have been assured that this will rapidly switch to a constant buying of Old Spice, a continual battle with too many towels in the hamper, and many lectures on conserving water. Isn’t life so interesting? ๐Ÿ™‚

If cleanliness is next to godliness, my mother-in-law is a saint. I get to live with a man who was taught neatness and impeccable grooming, and I do appreciate it. I have asked her how she did it… teach her six boys to be thoughtful of the housewife, to think about their shoes, to fix beds without wrinkles, to run vacuum cleaners and fold laundry when necessary. She sighs and says I married the careful one and she is still working on the ones at home, but I have observed them all and none of them are slobs. ๐Ÿ™‚ Mainly she says she just tried to teach them faithfully. What else is there for any of us to do? I have a theory that they became careful because they were required to help with the housework.

For the sake of my sons’ future wives, I will maintain my post faithfully too. “I really like when my room is organized,” Alex said today, “only it is so hard to keep it that way.” That seems to be the trick, doesn’t it? Not so long ago they insisted that they like it better messy.ย At least we have gotten past that point.

What do you think? Is this a matter of personality or training?

9 thoughts on “Of Dirty Socks, Rock Collections, and Jawbones

  1. Its a matter of training!!!!!!!!!! *came a dim shout from Ky* Oh my can I ever relate to this post. I read it gratefully as it washed over me that maybe my 9 yr old is normal after all. I told Alvin the other day that unless I make him shower every now and then and tell him sternly to wash his hair twice, that he just kind of smells. I remember how hard it was for me to imagine this stage when he was still a young child. He would emerge fresh from the bathtub (where I bathed him) with spiky hair, and he would pick up his toys like I taught him too. I never realized the acres of feathers, and rocks in old jars with a little bit of stinky water, the bugs and lizards and toads, the empty boxes from the kitchen and the money made of wood. that would eventually encroach into his room and find little spots to hide in, in every nook and cranny. So yes, I am right there with you. He is learning to do housework, and to do it well. I have taught him very good habits with the toilet seat, and someday when the feathers and the rocks are replaced with old spice and too much shampoo? I will just joyfully welcome the new era in!

    1. Oh, he sounds gloriously normal! But what is it about that smell? They look adorable with smudged faces and toads in their hands, crooked grins, and tousled hair. And then you get that musty, slightly sweaty smell and you think maybe they need to be sanitized but you just admire the toad and send them back out to play until lunchtime when you insist upon hot water and soap. Gotta love it!

  2. Ahem. Yes, I have collected a few similar stories along the way. I remember a particular sigh from one small son who obliged his mother’s enthusiasm to “deep-clean” the boys’ bedroom- “Mom, the problem is that when you deep clean, it’s more like throwing stuff away.” Exactly the point, oh middle son of mine, exactly! ๐Ÿ™‚ (But oh how I love boys!)

  3. I always find it a little fascinating to read posts like this because honestly my boys haven’t ever had huge collections like this. Oh sure, they have their projects and stuff but my firstborn has been a boy of order from toddlerhood so I think it is partly personality. ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe he rubbed off on the second one… don’t know. I have a bigger problem having my girls keep their bedroom orderly with their dolls and purses, cards, notes, papers,pens, markers and who knows what else. At any rate, this stage shall pass! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I do wonder though…were either of your boys more studious at organizing when they were younger? Dominic (since he was 18 mo) has faithfully lined his shoes up, separates his toys into their respective bins, need minimal reminders to put laundry where is goes, etc, I don’t see his love of cleaning and organizing lasting, but I’m wondering what you asked….does personality have anything to do with it?

    1. Alex loves to organize stuff, particularly things like the infamous utility drawer full of loose nuts and screws. It is ordinary life that gets him… no time to put it away right now, Mama.

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