I’m teaching my son to clean the toilet. Last week I taught him to wipe the rim, underneath the seat, and the entire outside of the bowl. This week he will also be introduced to the wonders of the toilet brush. This will be his job from now on, until there is another boy to train. While we were in the middle of this lesson he asked, “Why are you teaching me this mom?”
I responded, in complete seriousness, “Because it’s something every boy should know.”
Come on, you know it’s true. Who makes the mess in the toilet, and on the floor around it, and the wall behind it, and… You get my drift. So why is it always girls and women who clean up the stinky mess. I decided that the job of cleaning the toilet would always fall to my sons if I had any. I started this train of thought while observing my father, who was raised by a meticulously tidy woman. My grandmother had 11 children, and a clean house, in the days when you did the laundry by hand and grew your own food, and made your own clothes, bread, jam, butter, etc.
My father is meticulously tidy; he couldn’t understand why it was so hard for my mother to keep the house clean. (Part of the answer, she picked up her babies when they cried, but that’s another discussion altogether.) After my parents separated my father’s house was, predictably, tidy. However upon walking into his bathroom I was shocked to discover that the man had no idea how to clean a toilet, sink or bathtub. White porcelain is not supposed to look like it’s been encrusted with mysterious pink and brown goo that has hardened into an almost extra layer of finish. I wondered how a man so concerned with cleanliness could have allowed this to happen, and realized that although his mother had taught him to clean up after himself, she had never taught him to clean the bathroom, or several other things that he should be able to do. She had assumed his wife would do that for him; an assumption that my mother didn’t share.
Years later, when I was visiting my soon to be in-laws, they were getting ready for a big party or something and the girls were sent to clean the bathroom, and try and get rid of the smell of pee that surrounded the toilet from the presence of 6 boys. I thought, “Well that’s not fair.”
I am convinced that men can learn to actually clean if they are not allowed to hide behind their cultural mask of ignorance and ineptness, and taught how to see what needs to be done. Woman may see it more easily, but is that because we’re women, or because we were taught to? If I wiped a counter and it wasn’t done right, I was sent back to do it again, until I learned to do it right the first time. So far learning to clean has been exactly the same for my son. I have to tell him how to look at it, send him back to the same spot over and over again until there is nothing left there that isn’t supposed to be, and require him to decide if its garbage, or needs to be put away. But you should see him clean his room now. He does a really good job. Today he even moved his little furniture out of the way to vacuum behind it. (I haven’t really taught him how to vacuum yet so I had to finish, but I was so proud of him for noticing that detail and doing it.)
I decided that day at my future MIL’s house that in my house it would be the boys that are made responsible for the function of their own penises, and so far it is working. We started a year ago with me making him wipe up his own puddles if he missed the toilet. He knows where the rags are; he knows which sprayer to use. (I use vinegar and water so it’s safe for him and the rest of us.) I hoped that if he had to clean up every time he missed that he would become more aware of where he was aiming. It worked, he rarely misses and when he does, he can clean it up by himself. The toilet is just the next step.
Best part? My bathroom is always clean now and I didn't have to do it.
And all he women of the world rejoiced.