School is officially over and it is finally summer. Many mothers are shaking in fear as they begin to recognize the damage that can be done to them and their homes this summer. Stores of food will be depleted, swimsuits and beach towels will wreak havoc around the laundry room and outdoor toys and shoes will be scattered about the yard and reduced to tiny bits of plastic and leather by the dog. Last summer, there appeared a giant, kidney shaped stain on my (new?) carpet where someone (who shall remain nameless) dumped an entire Costco size salad dressing on the floor. Yes, Italian to those mindful moms who know the difference. And a broken window!
Maybe because I have 5 times the average number of children, I am going to have 5 times the average number of broken windows? Why does a stray baseball invariably go for the biggest window in the house……twice? It was broken twice last summer by two different wayward pitchers. This leads me to ask the pointless question of why we think pitching a baseball toward the house is a good idea. But, these are boys and, of course, when asked this question I am given a blank stare that tells me that there was no thinking involved at all.
After the second “incident,” I began to notice a disturbing trend. It is always disturbing when theories that apply to the POLICE department also apply to your home. There is a theory in police work called the broken window theory. This theory suggests that when a neighborhood is in disorder with rubble, graffiti and broken windows it sends the message to the criminal element that there is no one in charge. The implication is that the community is weak and not policed and it invites further criminal activity. This theory proposes that police departments can prevent crime by stopping graffiti and vandalism and cleaning it up immediately. That is the reasoning behind painting over graffiti as soon as possible.
Soon after the big living room window is broken, I began to notice something alarming among the people in my house. By people, I am referring to children, although I use the term people loosely. Suddenly Popsicle wrappers are left on the ground, toys lay where they are dropped; shoes began to pile up at the door. That is 18 shoes at the front door on any given moment in the summer and you have to stumble over all of those to get into the house. Annoying. Then, I noticed if someone left a dish on the counter, an hour later there would be 10 dishes on the counter. If someone spilled Kool-Aid, the rest of the “children” were less likely to be careful since it was sticky when they got there. No one could pinpoint the original offender.
The broken window theory began to happen in my house. If one kid acted in a criminal fashion, several followed. If one was committing some act of vandalism on my housekeeping, many more acts occurred. They were getting bold, too, not waiting for darkness to fall but committing their atrocious acts in broad daylight in front of preschoolers! It was time to enforce my own version of a police state. Believe me moms version can make the most hardened criminal beg for mercy, it can make a grown man cry.
A family meeting was called and the kids were introduced to my new theory. They didn’t like it. Let me amend that. They thought the theory sounded cool but did not care for the ramifications. Everyone wanted to be the criminal and no one wanted to be the police. Who raised these little anarchistic creatures? Police were what I needed!
We had to stop our family neighborhood from falling into decline. What we needed were tattle tales, finks, snitches, kids who would sing like a canary under questioning. Luckily, we have a lot of littles and what littles do best is tattle. Even the baby can say “so and so DID IT” Ha! There is nothing the police love more than a good informant! Unlike the real police however, I was not going to clean up the vandalism, the perpetrator was! It was genius!
So, we set up some new community ordinances. No dishes on the counter, no food left out, no shoes at the front of the door, toys put away after use, no wet towels on the floor and we stationed our informants. Oh yes, these lawless children tried to commit their crimes against my housekeeping but they were stopped in their tracks and sent back to the scene of the crime. It was not easy keeping up with them, but raising children is not for sissies. They cleaned and they scrubbed. It took Mr. Salad Dressing an entire DAY to clean my carpet to its original glory. He doesn’t even eat salad dressing anymore much less throw it around with abandon.
It was exhausting keeping up my new laws. I couldn’t let down my guard for a minute. But, they learned as children are apt to do. I haven’t seen any pitches heading toward the house lately and the floor is not as sticky as it was. When one of the kids had to spend a long time cleaning something and making it right, they were very watchful over who messed it up. They began to understand how disheartening it is to watch all your work be undone by disrespect. I hope they will see that in the real world, too, and try always to respect others works and deeds.
The police are right on about their theory. Although, I think they could learn something from me about the importance of informants, I even have a toddler they can borrow!