Do your children listen to anything you tell them to do? They do? Wow. Great for you. You can stop reading now.
My children, on the other hand, tune me out when I give them any direction other than, “Time to eat!” All summer I have grumped around my house muttering to myself about the ungrateful, spoiled residents who can’t be bothered to pick up their rooms or put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. As I retrieved yet another abandoned sock from the center of the living room floor, I flung it with all my strength and gritted my teeth but refrained from spewing the obscenities that pushed at my self-control. With a weary resignation I grabbed the sock, which is not very aerodynamically astute and lay next to my foot, and tromped up the stairs to the laundry room.
I’ve grown tired of my angry, ranting self, as have my children. Or they would if they heard me, but all three seem to have grown permanent ear buds in their ears. Last week, when the stench of rotting towels drew me to their bathroom, I reached my bitter end. The floor was strewn with slowly mildewing towels and clothes lying in the flood left by the last bather. The toilet had not been flushed (ew), the toilet paper holder hung empty, and toothpaste frosted nearly every square inch of the counter that was visible beneath the plethora of hair care products, abandoned flossers, wet washcloths, and tubes of skin creams and make up. Ugh. Gross.
As I maniacally cleaned the bathroom, flinging dirty laundry and empty bottles of shampoo, I searched for a solution. Withhold privileges? Sit them down and explain my expectations and their responsibilities? Remind them that they are not part of the royal family? But they don’t listen to anything I say, I reminded myself. Finally as I sat on the edge of the tub, scrubbing at the moldy grout, I was struck with a moment of brilliance. They don’t listen to anything I say, but they read anything they see!
My children are all addicted to reading. They read while they eat, while they swing, while they travel in any kind of vehicle (which is why my 16-year-old had no idea how to get to the school or the library when he started driving). They each own several bookshelves full-to-bursting and live amongst books scattered beneath their feet and stacked in the corners of their rooms.
I raced to my computer and typed up the “Directions for Bathroom Use.” I slipped one set of directions regarding the sink area and one about the tub/toilet area into sheet protectors and hurried back upstairs to hang them before the beasts appeared from their lairs.
That was two weeks ago and I’m happy to report that without a word from me or a complaint from them, the condition of the bathroom is vastly improved. That’s not to say that it is perfect, but I never expected that. I haven’t asked them because I don’t want to disturb the magic, but I’m fairly certain they truly didn’t know what was expected of them as regular users of the bathroom. (Remember the part about them not listening to a word I say?) Now they know about bathroom etiquette which leaves them with no excuse.
Like so many other grand plans I develop, I’m sure this one will wane with time, but now when I lose my cool due to the condition of their bathroom, at least the kids will have some idea why even if they can’t hear me. Next up – the rules for using the living room!
I’m sure you have your own rules for the bathroom, but just for reference, I’ll share mine:
Directions for Bathroom Use
If you use a washcloth – wring it out and hang it over the edge of the sink or on a towel bar. If it is beginning to smell or is dirty, take it to the laundry room and hang it over the edge of the green trashcan under the table. If you leave it balled up and lying around it will mildew and smell.
If you use a hand towel, hang it up on the ring to the right of the sink. There only needs to be one hand towel in use at a time. If it gets smelly, dirty, or used up, place it in the green trash can under the table in the laundry room.
Use the bath towels hanging behind the door. When you are finished, hang your towel back on the hook where you found it. When it needs to be washed, hang it on the railing to dry (that way I know which towels need to be washed and which can be used again).
When you are finished brushing your teeth or washing your face, put the things you’ve used away and clear off the counter for the next person. If you want extra points in heaven, wipe out the sink and counter with your washcloth and hang it on the rim of the green trash can in the laundry.
If you floss your teeth, reuse the flosser a few times (placing it in the toothbrush holder between uses) and then throw it away!
If your bathroom cup begins to look gross, put it in the dishwasher.
Put away whatever personal care products you use on the shelves provided so that the counter stays clear.
If you are running out of personal care products (deodorant, skin creams, toothpaste, etc.), let management know ASAP. Expect at least 3 days for replacements to arrive.
More directions for Bathroom Use (this sign hangs over the toilet)
When you have finished using the toilet, FLUSH it every time. If you accidentally miss the pot, please use toilet paper or a rag and wipe it up so the bathroom doesn’t begin to stink! (Flush toilet paper. Put rag on the floor in front of the washer so I know it’s priority laundry.)
If the toilet paper has run out, remove the empty roll and replace it with a new one (extra rolls are in the closet or under the sink).
If you use up a bottle of shampoo or conditioner, first fill it with water and use the dregs one more time. Then, take the empty bottle downstairs and place it in the recycling.
If you get undressed by the shower, remember to put your clothes in the correct receptacle in the laundry room when you exit the bathroom.
If you run out of shampoo/shaving cream/soap, etc., please be sure to let management know ASAP. It takes about three days to receive replacements.