Lately I’ve been pushing the clean-up thing pretty hard. I know there’s a whole school of thought that one should model cheerfully performing housework and never force children to do it, but I don’t have it in me. I resent spending hours every day picking up my kids’ toys and books and food and clothes (and that’s just clearing the floors, forget about doing any other chores…)

The other night, Rio and I were cleaning the schoolroom together. We’d gotten past the “ignoring me” phase, through the standard threats (mine: if you don’t pick up your toys, I am putting them all in the Hungry Bag until I find time to put them away myself, hers: I won’t be your daughter anymore! When I grow up, I will not even live with you! I am going to hit you with a basketball!”)

We reached the point where she was putting dolls away in a basket and complaining loudly while doing so, while I reshelved the entire bookcase worth of children’s books Serena had spread out on the floor.

“I hate this. You’re like Cinderella’s stepmother!”

“How am I like Cinderella’s stepmother?”

“Cinderella’s stepmother makes her do things she does not want to do, and she makes her clean up all the time when it isn’t fair. And that’s what you do to me. You make me clean up when I don’t want to clean up. I am like Cinderella, and you are like Cinderella’s stepmother!”

I confess that I was so thrilled at her ability to liken a fairy tale narrative to her life and break the story apart for meaning, I completely failed to chastise her for being rude and messy. Maybe not so much “forgot” as “gleefully neglected”.

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