Live from the rubble

My horribly messy kids love to throw crap. And they also love to clean crap up. Not necessarily the stuff they just slathered all over the house, but it’s a start.

The frustrating part is when they take everything off the shelves — books, dinosaurs, torn-up art projects, old empty shampoo bottles they hoarded from the recycling bin — and throw it all around, little arms frantically waving.

Then, one child will suddenly be seized up with a cleaning bug, tunnel in through  the rubble, and pick up a teeny, tiny stack of Legos — and put it back in the box!

So, they’re not great cleaners, and neither am I. Though I am quite proud of our new game “kitchen-cleaning robots,” which allows me to maybe put a dish or two away while they smooth interesting dirty streak marks onto the chrome fridge with grimy moist paper towels.

Truthfully, I’m still waiting, patiently, for all that groundbreaking “Jetsons” cleaning equipment Hanna-Barbera promised society back in the ’60s, but I think we’ll sooner get Bronto burgers. Checking the weekly big-box ads, I don’t see a Rosie, or a machine that will shower and dress me — my fondest dream — or even a measly flying car.

There is the Roomba, of course, the autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner. But I’m fairly certain that sucker would instantly get trapped in our constantly accumulating pile of toys and toy parts, forming complex stratigraphic layers around, on and under the couch.

By my estimates, to keep the house uncondemnable, I would have to dig out the floor every 20 minutes. Frankly, I just don’t think some little robot is up to the job.

It’s designed to trap tiny particles of dirt and dust, not jockey for space with every toy the boys have ever gotten from any venue, ever, and then soldier on to suck up 65 percent of what I serve for breakfast daily.

It is of course, a law decreed by my sons that all toys must be removed from their bins and dispersed, every hour on the hour. And if breakfast is even slightly unappetizing, it will be carried about in tightly clenched toddler fists until it is conveniently dropped while Mommy isn’t looking.

For a robot, the mess would not compute.

Not to mention that I’m fairly certain my children would attempt to ride, if not outright assault, that unfortunate Roomba.

A rational floor-cleaning device would be bound to ask: What parents in their right minds let their kids eat waffles with syrup in the living room? Or continue to give toddlers open cups of water like they’re living in the ’70s or something? Or nightly hot chocolate with whipped cream, with little spoons to fling the liquid? Oh, yeah. That’d be me. Uh-huh. Yep.

And I am not a cleaner. Never have been, never will be. Don’t get me wrong: I like clean stuff, but I simply don’t view that as my job. Me? I’m a writer and editor on hiatus who stays at home with her kids. Housekeeping, or the seizure-inducing word “homemaking,” never really entered into the equation.

And trust me, I’m not making a home. I’m eking out an existence for two little boys to step around the massive Fisher-Price play sets and giant Trader Joe’s boxes. And, eventually, to learn to pick them up, too.

But only after they’re done building their fort.

–Jillian O’Connor

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