Sunday, January 1, 2017

Be chipmunks, my children

           In what seems like a natural progression of summer break, the unbridled freedom, slothful days, and general exuberance must eventually take a pause. As much as I wish I could frolic every day in the sunshine and haul the children from adventure to adventure, there are menial tasks of everyday life that simply cannot be ignored for too long. Adulting is so hard.
            While our children are old enough to do their own laundry and pitch in around the house, I often like to assign them to clean their rooms. As a child I hated that job with all my heart, but as an adult I think sometimes it’s just a way of keeping your kid contained and out of your hair for a couple of hours.
            I’m not extremely picky when it comes to how clean I expect their rooms to be, mostly because my office looks like a bookmobile crashed into the paperwork center of a crafting store, and being a hypocrite is just not cool. But I do have a new set of general guidelines for the kids, and I sum it up in one sentence: Be chipmunks, not groundhogs.
            Because nature is fascinating and we live in the woods next to a field, these two hole-digging animals are part of our daily lives. While they both excavate extensive burrows (the tiny chipmunk’s can be up to 20 feet long!), there is a difference between them that fascinates me. Sure, they both have nesting chambers and sleeping chambers and yes, even bathroom chambers. It is true that chipmunks differ by keeping their hoards of seeds and the roots from my gardens and plants in their food chambers. But there’s another difference that I want to impress on my children: the entrance.
            If there is something that my kid doesn’t think belongs in his or her room, the item gets tossed directly out the door and forms a potentially substantial pile in the hallway. Books, trash, clothing that doesn’t fit, etc. This is where the chipmunk philosophy comes in.
            Chipmunks keep the entrances of their holes tidy compared to groundhogs who simply dump the excavated dirt right there at the door. They actually fill their cheek pockets with the dirt and truck it away! They do this in order to protect their tasty little selves, because if a predator came along and tripped over a pile of dirt, they would simply wait for lunch to come out of the hole. (Apparently groundhogs are lazy or aren’t all that smart.)

            And so it follows that if my children would keep the entrance of their rooms tidy, I wouldn’t notice the rest of it and have to go all predator mom on them. Or trip on things in the hallway.

Originally written 6.5.16

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