Before his bath one night, my son looked at the tub and said, “yucky, ” while making a wiping motion with his hand. He refused to go in for his bath until he was satisfied the tub met his standards. It was in that moment that I knew I was raising a neat freak.
Before his meals, my son insists on having me dust his chair off, as if I am one of those ushers at baseball stadiums. He demands a clean plate every time he is offered something new to eat. He will even go as far as taking a napkin and dabbing the edge of his plate if any of the contents of his meal should spill out of place. Yes, my son insists on the same level of perfection Gordon Ramsay demands from his “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants.
I should have seen this coming.
As soon as he was able to recognize that certain things go together, my son had to have everything in its proper place. This meant things like grouping items in the bath not just by similar shape, but by actual brand. Yes, my son would make sure both the “Herbal Essences” shampoo and conditioner were placed side by side.
Of course, having such a neat child has it’s benefits. I rarely have to fight with my son to clean up his toys. There’s no singing of the “Clean Up” song, and he is often the first to volunteer to help tidy up after a party. My son also refuses to leave the table before wiping his hands and face. Again, this isn’t because I am some manners police. He just really likes to be clean.
When I think of my son and his fondness for neatness, I have to laugh because, his father and I are decidedly not clean freaks. We aren’t like “Hoarders” bad, but there’s a reason we don’t host a lot of dinner parties. If anything, our son pushes us to tidy up more.
So, where does this penchant for tidiness come from? It looks like it skipped a generation or two in our family. My mother-in-law is neat as is my father, and my husband and I both had grandmothers who would cringe at the site of our apartment. I would like to think they are looking down on our son feeling relieved that he will keep us in line.
I admit there are times when I worry my son’s desire for cleanliness and order might be obsessive and keep him from enjoying childhood. Yet for all his love of being neat, he still enjoys getting dirty. He will jump in puddles, play in the dirt and cover his face in spaghetti and meatballs. He’ll just want a bath when he’s done.