Christina M. Currie
Christina M. Currie's Touch of Spice column appears Fridays in the Craig Daily Press. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Seven-year-old Katie has a hard time focusing.
If I say, "Katie, get your coat on," she takes two steps toward her room and finds something on the wall that captured her attention.
"Katie, get your coat."
Two more steps and she finds a toy to play with.
"Katie! Get. Your. Coat."
"I just forget, mom."
I have the same problem. I'll be working on one project and think of something else I need to be doing. Then, I'll remember a call I need to make. Then, an idea will strike that I just have to commit to paper. Before I know it, I'm in the middle of 14 things at once.
I call it an unparalleled ability to multi-task. In Katie's case, I'm thinking it's A.D.D.
To that end, when it's time for a big project, like the cleaning of rooms, I'm embarking on a weekend-long argument - actually it's a weekend of reminding Katie that she's supposed to be cleaning her room and not playing, dancing, singing or watching a movie.
The best method of accomplishing this (I know, it's a horrible strategy) is by letting her watch a movie she likes and clean her room during commercial breaks.
Katie is well-suited to tasks that can be broken down into little pieces and have specific time frames.
She demonstrates this at school as well. She can spend 15 minutes working on math problems and leave them half unanswered. But she excels at speed drills where she knows she's got a set amount of time to reach the end.
I guess there's some sound personality assessment that accounts for that trait, but I'm unaware of it.
But, her room was beyond anything commercial breaks could solve, and I was at the end of my tether. I laid down the gauntlet. Go to your room and don't come out until it's clean.
We started that Saturday morning. She was able to leave (with some significant assistance) on Sunday night.
Neat freak I am not, but I do like to get from point A to point B without stepping on shards of a broken tea set, clothes that are dirty and clothes that are clean and an unbelievable array of toys that are going to beep, sing or screech when you step on them.
By late Sunday afternoon, Katie had made headway. Just like her mother, she can't look at the big picture and take care of the worst of it. She couldn't clean off her dresser, she had to organize it. OK, I have that problem too, but I do understand the point at which the entire picture overwhelms the small details.
So, I went in with the goal of assessing progress and deciding what to throw out. Frankly, you can't clean effectively if there's not a place for everything and when you have too much of everything, you run out of places for it to live.
My job was to determine what lived and what died.
Katie, just like most people, is very attached to the things she makes. The only problem is that in any given day, she makes between three and five things. That's A LOT of pictures, poems and art projects.
I'm all for keeping evidence of their creativity and a trail of their skill growth, but please. The paper trail is too overwhelming. Usually, I sneak the lesser projects into the trash, keeping only those with cute and or sentimental value.
To Katie, there's no such thing as a lesser project.
So, I created a place for her to store that stuff (I'll give it a few weeks then I'll go in and purge).
Once Katie was convinced she was done, I went in for the inspection and gave under the bed a cursory glance.
And about died.
That is the universe where single socks go to die.
That is where that one part of a toy that makes the whole thing work hides.
That is where all the Halloween (and Christmas and Easter) candy, as well as a box of crackers and that box of Froot Loops I swore I'd bought, disappeared to.
Clearly at 7 years old, you haven't learned to hide evidence of your misdeeds a little better.
I shoveled out what I could reach and then sent 6-year-old Nikki in. She tells people "I'm a little 6," which means she's small for her age.
Perfect for reaching the far reaches of the Netherlands.
I admit, I was worried that she'd never return.
She tossed things out and I categorized them.
Most of what she found went into the trash pile. I figured if it had been lost for who knows how long, it didn't need to be found.
I finally called Nikki to the surface when she started flinging out lint (unlike her sister, Nikki sometimes overly focuses on a goal).
Katie was not the least bit embarrassed about the state of her living conditions.
I was. I was a lot embarrassed.
To the joy of advertisers everywhere I have to say, clearly children's movies need more commercials.
If nothing else, we really focus on those.