Monday, July 18, 2011

My Personal Organizer

I barely need a calendar anymore.  I don't need to tidy up around the house anymore...I can leave things lying around wherever and whenever I feel like it.  I have no more heavy lifting to do.  And I no longer have to remember where anything is.

Because I have all of these functions built in to my middle child.  Seth is amazing in this way:
  • He usually tidies up after himself (and often his little sister), without reminders.  Without reminders.  Matthew, listen up.  And he's happy to make his bed when we're all upstairs after breakfast getting ready for the day.
  • He remembers the order of things, if I can find the words to explain to him what's on the calendar for that day.  In fact (like Matthew), he likes to know the plan for the day, which I try to tell him if I can find English words simple enough to express it (it's hard to explain 'dentist' for example, at least the first time).  And heaven forbid if we miss something that I've told him we could do; like when we were supposed to go to a wading pool with friends last Wednesday and I learned shortly before we left the house that their plans had changed - I heard about that for hours.
  • He carries in all of my groceries (I truly don't think I have carried a bag in since arriving home from ET - he even dragged the big sugar bag in when I was making jam...making me worry that he would wear a hole into the bottom of the bag).  When we're walking around the grocery store, he takes everything from my hand to put into the cart, loads up the conveyor belt for the cashier (from his position standing in the cart) and, when we arrive at our van in the parking lot, he stands in the cart to pass the bags of groceries over to me so that I can load them in to the van.  When we get home and jump out of the car, I often make moves to empty the van trunk of groceries.  Seth's response:  "Mommy, NO TOUCH.  NO TOUCH!!!"  And the words are accompanied by a hand up in the air, indicating the stop sign.  All right then.  I'll just wave my wand and the groceries will appear in the kitchen as if by magic.
  • He puts his shoes into his cubby when we come home from somewhere.  Every time.  Often he puts away Geoff's shoes, too, while he's at it.  Listen up, Geoff.  If Lizzie forgets to take off her shoes when coming in to the house, he's the first to remind her...a little more harshly than I would, in fact.  If she doesn't act fast enough, he's on his knees in front of her:  Helping her; and then putting the shoes away.
  • If he finds out that we're going into the car (one of his favourite things in the world), he immediately (and I do mean immediately) starts to organize all three of them into using the bathroom first, so that we can get to the car faster (this is a requirement that I instilled the first day we got home).  He runs to the bathroom to do his business, then hunts Lizzie down and practically drags her to the bathroom to get her going.  After she's done, he searches out Matthew and tells him "Matthew, shint (pee). Now." until Matthew reluctantly (and too slowly for Seth's liking) meanders over to the bathroom, or professes that he doesn't need to go (which just causes anxiety for Seth, so Matthew sometimes just goes to the toilet anyway, so that he doesn't have to hear Seth nag at him).
  • When we're ready to leave the house, Seth checks to make sure I've got the kids' water bottles and the little emergency cheerio containers in my backpack and zips up the various zippers of my backpack (sometimes a little too soon for me, but oh well).  He then points to my keys where they hang on the key hook by the door, to make sure I know where they are, and gestures to the garage door opener, which he would also love to press open if I let him.
  • He knows where everything is.  If I say we're out of ketchup (which I really thought we were, ok?), he'll run to the fairly-organized pantry and pull out the brand new bottle of ketchup, and bring it to the table.  If he's out of underwear in his basket, he runs down to the dryer and ferrets through it until he finds a pair...and a spare to put into his basket for tomorrow.  Just yesterday, I found myself asking him things throughout the day:  "Seth, do you know where the water bottles are?"  "Seth, where's Mommy's backpack?" "Seth, where's that little thing-a-ma-jiggy that Mommy put somewhere before?"  He always knows the answer.  And if he doesn't, he will find can almost see the wheels turning as he stands and thinks about where something is.  For example, last week sometime, I could not find Matthew's water bottle.  I asked Matthew about it and got a "hmmm - well - yeah - I don't remember where I put it" kinda answer...even though I was trying to find it so that he could get ready for basketball camp!  Seth must have overheard me asking Matthew about it, because the next thing I knew, he was running around the house looking for it.  All he needed to complete the picture was a couple of hound-dog ears and a nose to the ground...'cause that boy was on a hunt.  He scoured the house for it and, after about ten full minutes of searching (while Matthew sat in the sunroom making some popsicle-stick-glue craft -- a home for his imaginary friend, Bambi), Seth came running back into the kitchen, triumphantly holding the water bottle above his head.  I asked where he found it; his answer:  "garage; Matthew's bicycle."  I didn't even know he'd been in the garage! 
  • One of his preferred in-home activities is helping me with the laundry.  Geoff, again, listen up.  If he sees me carrying a laundry basket of dirty clothes, he runs for the laundry room and manages to get himself on top of the dryer (just beside the washing machine).  He dumps the load into the washer and would appreciate if I allowed him to put the soap in (which I don't allow).  When the load is empty, he stands in front of the dryer while I unload the washer, and loves ( the point of giggling and outright laughter) when I pass him the clothes from the washer so that he can throw them into the dryer - and if some clothes happen to come to quickly for him, or land on his head, all the better!  Then, when the buzzer sounds, indicating that the clothes are dry, he's immediately all over me to tell me that we need to get to the laundry room; and it's always Seth who makes it to the laundry room first.  He sticks his upper body into the dryer while shovelling the clothes out underneath him, into the waiting basket below...when I watch him do this, I always get another dog image in my head - that of a puppy digging a hole in the sand and shovelling the sand up between his back legs.  And then (here's the best part), he helps me fold the load!  Yes, I have a child who folds towels perfectly, and who insists on folding most of his own clothing, and putting them away.  It's hard for me to believe, but I'm pretty caught up on all of my laundry; I think it's due, in large part, to the fact that I don't have to wait until nighttime hours to do it.
I have wondered from time to time whether Seth's willingness to work with me has to do with insecurity.  Maybe he thinks he still has to earn his keep, or something like that.  And that may be a part of it - that he can't quite relax yet in the knowledge that he forever has a home, and so thinks that this is a necessary part of being a part of our family.  I've also wondered what he has been taught about chores - by his birth family, by the orphanage, by the Transition House.  I've heard from a few other adoptive parents that their older children also like to work.  But Lizzie certainly doesn't seem afflicted with the same desire to be of help and, at virtually four years of age, she's considered an 'older child' too.  I regularly offer Seth a play-oriented alternative to working with me.  And he will sometimes take me up on it - he's really ok to play, too.  But more often than not, he'd prefer to be with me, and to help me work at something.  He's a very, very physical boy (in play, too) and he seems to like having something constructive to do.

I guess time will tell how much of Seth's desire to help is motivated by attachment insecurities and fears.  He did throw a napkin yesterday...and it landed on the floor...and he didn't run to pick it up for something close to a minute.   But I think there's something pretty innate in his behaviour.  He genuinely seems to enjoy helping and working.

And who am I to resist?  It's nice having someone to talk to while I fold laundry, quite frankly!


  1. Oh, I love this post so much. He sounds so similar to my Z.! She really seems to genuinely enjoy working. She comes to me and says, "Mommy, Z. want to work now. Please?" Well, who am I to resist such a question?

    I will say that E. was the same at first, but has become lazy and sulky when asked to work. That's cause for rejoicing, since it does indicate that he's not trying to earn a place in our family. But Z. just really enjoys it, so I let her! :)

  2. This sounds a lot like Bereket - especially the heavy lifting and cleaning up. Eskedar loves to clean up too. After two years, their zeal to clean has diminished slightly but they just need a quick reminder and it's done!
    I think that the older child seems to be the one who is most like this. With my two, they're only 10 minutes apart so they both have had to help take care of little children in the TH.
    Oh, and about the folding - be careful taking Seth to the fabric store! The twins want to learn to sew so I took them into Fabricland to buy fabric for pajama pants. Bereket wanted to refold every bit of fabric there! It took forever to get him out. :)

  3. Hi Ruth,
    Same here for Briahna!! She started folding the napkins at Hebir in Addis. She doesn't have the enthusiasm Seth has for the laundry though, but all our shoes must be in a straight line at the door, all her clothes folded just right, dirty clothing must be put in the hamper right away (Jasmine does NOT agree with that). She is slowly phasing out of it.

  4. How awesome that Seth is so eager to help! Mekuria doesn't have these desires. He pretty much thinks I am his slave/maid/personal assistant. lol