“I have a good way of getting rid of the dirt piles,” the 7 year old states. She’s sweeping. It’s one of her weekly chores and she’s been doing it now for about 3 months. I’m only half paying attention. I’m half paying attention to a lot of things: the fussing baby in the highchair, the pot of lentils on the stove, the 4 year old coloring, Union Station on the radio... That’s a lot of “halves” and if you add it all up, it explains why I didn’t go into math. Or why I should be a pollster, one.
“How do you get rid of the dirt piles?” I ask.
“Well,” she grins. “If there’s a vent...” and I watch as she sweeps a remarkably huge pile down the vent.
What idiot decided to put vents in the floor, anyway? Let’s see, the house was built in 1979, which means it’s had 30 years of sweeping to clog up the system. No wonder we have no air flow.
Being the Montessori mother that I am, I screech. “STOP! You can’t do that!” And I explain about Dirt in the Ductwork. Being the child that she is, I have to embellish a bit, something about exploding furnaces and fiery deaths.
When she was 3, I couldn’t stop her standing up in the grocery store carriages. Finally, I said, “If you stand up, you’ll fall out, crack your head open, bleed your brains all over the floor and it WILL HURT!” Parenting by fear--ah, how the mighty have fallen. But, gee, Wally, I did try reasoning with the little cherubs. Thing is, they don’t really care so much about how un-fun it is to buy a new furnace. I know this because I recently bought a new vacuum when the old one literally refused to stand up any more. No one oohed or aahed. No one told me how beautiful, what good taste I show, and how delighted I must be to have a new vacuum. Buying a new vacuum is like buying food--the kids never appreciate it, but you’ve still got to have it around.
Maybe I should have told the 7 year old about the monster who lives in the furnace. When we’re good, he stays asleep. But if we shove things down the vents, he wakes up. Shhhh, listen...