When I’ve heard people say that “cleanliness is next to godliness” I’ve always assumed they meant that being clean (hygienically or in their personal space) is so important as to be just below godliness in priority. That probably is what they mean, I suppose, which is why it always get’s an inward eye-roll: Paul and the apostles don’t seem to have much to say about cleaning your room and taking regular showers.
As a parent, however, I think “cleanliness is next to godliness” might have more to do with my righteousness (or lack-there-of) as I react to my children’s cleanliness (or lack-there-of). Somehow, despite our best efforts and constant instruction, our kids still manage to leave a trail of destruction behind themselves on a regular basis. Godzilla loose in Manhattan could hardly do worse. Coats are dumped on the floor two feet from the coat hooks, school books are transported to various places in the house and left there, pajamas found crumpled in the bathroom and on the floors of bedrooms, and general “craftiness” comes to dominate all the tables in our home like a mold that grows only on hard, flat surfaces.
The persistence of these little messes and our children’s complete unawareness to their presence drives my wife and I in the opposite direction of godliness. You know, “love, joy, peace, patience….” All of these are eroded over the course of the day as a stream erodes its banks and before we know it our frustrations are raw and our parenting ready to collapse.
True to form, we have rallied ourselves – both for the preservation of our godliness and our children’s future ability to keep house and home – to the task of training our children to be aware of what they leave behind. To be thoughtful of the rest of the family. To clean up after themselves as they go through their day.
As is my wont, I’ve created a chart:
We’re going to give this a try and I’ll update in a few weeks to let you know how successful it was. The general idea is that every time we find an abandoned mess they get a checkmark. Not the making of the mess, mind you. That’s part of being a kid. It’s the leaving it behind that matters and we want our children to be mindful of the space we all share. At the end of the week, wherever their last checkmark lands will be their reward or consequence.
Believe it or not, Ivy was pretty excited about this (little does she know the storm that is about to break!). Simon was skeptical. Kyna and I are hopeful.