Before kids, I was very picky about how my DVDs and books were shelved. Having volunteered at a library in my youth, I even group my books by subject matter and then alphabetized them. Having my DVDs and books out of order is disturbing for me. And then I had kids.
Buddy loved playing with the DVDs. Let’s just say, our nickname for him is Wreck-It. He would pull them from the shelves constantly and fight us if we tried to get him to put them back in the shelves. He would remove the DVDs from the casings and put them in the vents. He would take the covers out of the DVDs casings and destroy them. And frankly, it was a gargantuan task keeping on top of him.
At first we thought if we went hand over hand with him to clean it up he would learn not to make a mess anymore. Would would try making clean up a game. We would try everything we could think of to get him to clean up. He would cry and throw a tantrum. Eventually to preserve our sanity I moved the DVDs into the master bedroom and doubled them in a random order, crammed on the highest shelves to get them all to fit so he couldn’t reach them.
It meant we couldn’t easily find a lot of our DVDs, and it meant the organization was a mess, but at least the DVDs were safe and we weren’t having to pull our hair out cleaning them up multiple times a day.
Lately Buddy has been calming down and I’ve been able to tackle some deep cleaning projects that I haven’t been able to before (because I was too busy trying to keep on top of the newest mess in the house). So I decided to see what would happen if I organized the DVDs.
I started when I put Sissy and Buddy down for nap/quiet time. Unfortunately before I finished organizing everything, Buddy started signaling he’d had enough quiet time, so I hoped I could sit him in front of the tv in the living room while I finished.
No such luck. When I’m in the master bedroom, he wants to be with me.
I braced myself for having to redo all the hard work I’d done as there were plenty of DVDs on the lower shelves to pull out, to not mention all of the DVDs on the bed waiting to be shelved. Would he take the DVDs out of the casings and run with them? Would he destroy the covers for the DVDs?
He did not. Instead, he started gathering the DVDs I had put on the bed and put them on the bottom shelves like he saw me doing (they weren’t alphabetized, but it saved me the trip of getting more DVDs from the bed). After awhile he got bored with this and went to the living room to find something to do, allowing me to finish organizing the DVDs.
Now I am pleased with how good my shelves look after years of just cramming everything on the highest shelves I could.
And the larger lesson is that kids will grow out of the destruct-o phase. Further, sometimes kids just aren’t developmentally at the point we think they should be. And this changes from kid to kid. Sissy, though younger than Buddy, does an amazing job of cleaning up after herself. She’s 2.5 and she even takes charge of keeping her room spotless and gets upset if something is in her room that she does not want in it.
However, Buddy and Sissy are different people. Sissy could clean up after herself at 18 months, Buddy couldn’t, and forcing him was just causing frustration and bad feelings. However, if you wait until they are ready, then that frustration goes away.
I started realizing Buddy might be ready when he consistently would leave the DVDs I rented from the library alone. I used to the the DVDs up out of reach, but recently was careless and left them by on the tv stand. Buddy did not touch them, however.
Sometimes you just have to deal with the inconvenience of putting the breakable stuff up and spending a few years having to dig for the DVD you’re looking for. But it’s not worth the headache of trying to force your child to do things they aren’t developmentally ready to do.
But they will grow out of it.
Next project, get the bookshelves back in order!