Yesterday, I stood at the stove cooking our omelets, and Liberty kept coming to me and giving me little kisses. After a little while, she said, "Mommy, do you know why I'm giving you so many kisses?"

"Because you love me a LOT, right?" I responded, fairly sure that I had the correct answer.

"No, it's because you are cooking food for me."

Yeah, I should have known that; she takes after her daddy.

Later, after four days of exhausting myself to get my daughters to clean up their toys each day, I finally told them that they had one hour to get everything put exactly where it belonged before I came through with my trash can. I purposefully kept my voice very kind and conversational, trying to convey the idea that I just wanted them to know what the consequences for their actions would be, but the choice to obey or disobey was completely up to them.

Mercy either had no clue or pretended to have no clue and continued pursuing her own agenda. Liberty on the other hand seemed to have grasped the idea that something unpleasant loomed in her near future, and she tried several times to persuade her sister to clean up. However, she put more effort into getting her sister to work than she did in performing any actual work herself.

By the time their chance to clean up had run out, about 80% of the mess remained on the floor. I decided to make a few unobtrusive walk-throughs while the girls were goofing off in another part of the room in order to rescue items that I did not want thrown away, but I purposefully left some precious things on the floor. Things like Liberty's pink blanket. *Cue the dramatic music, please.*

Then from the kitchen, I made a production out of getting the garbage can outfitted with a brand new bag, and I calmly started my journey. Liberty watched the first few items rustle their way into the garbage with something like shock on her face. Mercy ignored it all, or rather, she dumped over a bucket of chalk, and then looked at me in order to communicate that my idea of bad consequences were really of no consequence to her. So I walked over and began nicely scooping chalk pieces into the garbage can.

"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" shrieked Liberty, and she ran over to frantically salvage a few that I had not yet scooped. "Mercy Jane, don't do that!" she yelled.

I moved on to the next closest pile of items and began picking them slowly up one at a time. I did not move so slowly that my actions could be detected as stalling, but I tried to give the girls time to come rescue their toys if they cared to. As I worked, I told them that they were welcome to come rescue whatever they wanted to keep. By this time, poor Liberty sobbed in heaving gulps, and I felt just terrible. But every time I was tempted to stop, I pictured the next time I would have to ask them to clean, or I told myself, "My job is not to have happy kids at all times; it is to equip them to be responsible adults," and I kept going.

When I finally worked my way to Liberty's blanket, I asked her, "Honey, do you want your blanket back?" She nodded, still sobbing and gulping. "I will put it here where you cannot reach it, and when you have done some extra chores, you can earn it back. Understand?" She nodded.

In the meantime, Mercy stood back at the chalkboard tray just waiting for me to glance over at her. When I did, she deliberately swiped the chalk pieces back onto the floor and looked at me. So, I calmly walked back over there and began placing them one piece at a time into the trash. Liberty ran with me and dropped to the floor crying as she tried to block my fingers from their work. "Mercy!" she said. To my surprise, Mercy also dropped to her knees and began picking up the pieces and returning them to the tray. I never saw her face, and she never said a word, so I'm not sure what went on inside her head, but I was glad to see her helping.

We had one last pile in front of a toy box on the far side of the room to pick up, and the two girls ran to get there before I showed up. They randomly tossed things into the toy box, but the small ball that poor Mercy aimed over and over kept missing the box. She got so frustrated that she started to cry, so I stopped and helped her put it away, then I returned to my terrible work.

Finally, the entire room was clean. Liberty continued to wail and heave, and I recognized a good bit of anger in her cry. I decided to let her cry, hoping that her anger would eventually turn towards her own disobedience if I gave her enough time to think it over. But in order to drown out the sound, I plugged the vacuum in and began vacuuming the living room and dining room. Her cries had not subsided when I finished, so I decided to vacuum the hall way and bedrooms.

(Parenthetical sidenote: It's a good thing God has freed me from my fear of having my children taken from me, because all that wailing would normally have paralyzed my heart, and I would have been panicked from worry.)

At last, she had worn herself out. I wrapped up the cord and put the machine away. Then I walked up to Mercy and hugged her. "You made a good decision to help clean, Mercy Jane," I told her warmly. She smiled at me, "I love you, Mommy," she said. "I love you, too, Mercy Jane."

Then I walked over to Liberty. "I'm sorry that some of your toys had to be thrown away, HoneyBunny," I told her compassionately and put my arm around her. She nodded. "I want to sit in your lap, Mommy."

"Okay, why don't you go pick out a book, and I'll read it to you."

"No, I just want to sit in your lap, Mommy."

"Oh, okay. I want to cuddle with you, too, my Liberty Grace."

So we sat and cuddled, until I just had to try to enforce the lesson. "That must have been pretty sad to have your toys thrown away, huh?" I asked her.

She nodded.

"Well, my HoneyBunny, what decision do you think you might make next time I ask you to clean up?"

She solemnly answered, "To get more toys at Walmart."
5 Responses
  1. Tiffany Says:

    OMG! I was NOT expecting that answer. I don't think I would have been able to hold myself back either.

  2. Cora Says:

    I've been right there with you, Missy. Oh what a task we have at times! Unfortunately, I can say I've done the trash can routine more than one time.

  3. Suanna Says:

    I've been there, too. Though it wasn't quite as dramatic. I would go through with a trash bag and pick up everything on the floor and tell them these things are now mine to give or throw away as I please. Somethings I keep to give back at a later time and the rest are trashed or donated.

  4. Beth Says:

    Oh dear. I am not sure I could have done that...I think I HAVE done it and allowed them to earn things back. You are better than me!
    I would have died laughing at Liberty's answer!!
    By the way, I have left you a HUGE blog regarding my romance with Roger on my blog!! It might take you a while to read it!!

  5. Que Says:

    That was great from beginning to end. I loved the ending. That sounds like something I would say. I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing for you. :)

    But I hope my wife does this soon. The kids have too much JUNK and my wife won't let me... I mean... won't agree with me that throwing stuff (or giving it) away is the best answer. I want my wife to do it because she would handle it much better than I would. She would have done it like you. I, on the other hand, would just start chucking junk!

    My thing is if I have had to pick it up 5 times, that should be the LAST time I pick it up. OH, well... maybe one day I will get my wish and FINALLY get rid of everything for the last time.

    On a side note: I don't know how to get your husband my Starcraft ID without broad casting it. That is awesome. What I might do is send you another comment with it in there and you just write it down and don't publish the comment. How does that sound?

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