See how clean and not covered in toys the carpet in the photo above looks? This is not a normal state of affairs. No, this carpet is more often a mine field of Lego and Hot Wheels that I was sure would one day kill me. This is the carpet between me and my office every morning and this is the story of how it came to be clean.
It is funny how the question, “when’s the baby due?” is so often followed by parenting horror stories. That’s not a nice thing to do to expecting first time parents. Not nice at all. Hilarious, but not nice.
One such horror story was told to me just a few weeks before the firstborn came along. My former boss told me of how messy his kids were. How the house was constantly in some state of disarray in the years before parent and child spoke the same language. When the kids were old enough though, and able to understand, he told them of The Mess Fairy.
The Mess Fairy arrived at night to take toys that had not been cleaned up during the day. I thought nothing of it at the time, had no real frame of reference for why this was such a vital tool and just thought it was just a really funny idea.
That all changed this weekend. At some point, the firstborn stopped being afraid of my wrath and decided rewards were no longer fun. I call this point “the dumbest point in the history of points, why did this happen to us? Can we sue something? I am not typically litigious, but I can learn.” I went out of my way to not blame myself for creating this mindset in the wee one. However it came about, it has arrived and we have to deal with it.
Trying to get the kid to help clean up the basement on Saturday morning was rough. We asked nicely, wr bribed, we punished, I yelled; the little nightmare kid would not help out. He’s four, four year olds are butts. I needed a moment to calm down, went upstairs, drank some coffee and went through every horror story I have ever read or heard. Mess fairy. A lightbulb went off and I went downstairs.
“Buddy, did we ever tell you about The Mess Fairy?” I ask. My wife just let it roll.
“Mess fairy?” He asked.
“The Mess Fairy eats messes that are not picked up,” I said.
“And donates them to little boys and girls,” my wife added. We donate stuff all the time and he knows that is something is donated, it does not come back.
The basement was clean within three minutes. The whole time he was asking questions about The Mess Fairy. Before long we had an entire mythological worked out. The Mess Fairy arrives at night, unless mommies and daddies call him. The Mess Fairy loves to eat toys on the ground. The Mess Fairy eats books too, better put them back on the shelf when done.
So yes, I totally used the boy’s ignorance to my advantage and when he learns of this he will certainly have some trust issues, but we got two days of a kid cleaning up after himself as soon as he was done with a toy and it was bliss. Now to learn how to manipulate the toddler into doing what we ask of him! That’s…that’s possible. Right?