17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Big Bad Bissel

So my two little guys, the same boys that approach rabidly barking dogs with giggles and hang precariously from the highest bars at the playground, fear our vacuum cleaner.

This is a more recent problem. We had always lived in spaces with hard wood floors so I had never really used a vaccum cleaner. Our new house has three levels of carpet.

I have tried various approaches: Having the boys make friends with the vacuum, warning them when I would be turning it on, making them play in the opposite corner of the house while I quickly vacuumed a room. It's always the same reaction, loud wailing followed by hysterical and aimless running with their arms raised up in the air like little cartoon creatures. This reaction continues until I turn off the vacuum. Then they both help me shove it into the closet and slam the door shut....like they are locking up a bad guy and throwing away the key.

I think this is a real fear and not an attention-seeking behavior. I mostly think this because I reacted the same way to noises as a young child. I would hide under the bed when the vacuum or blender was on. And I hated SM for years for fear of the "hot mic" (I actually still can't stand the sound of a screeching microphone).

Right now, I vacuum when the boys are out of the house (not exactly my ideal way to spend my child-free time), or I'll make a frantic attempt at a room or two when they are out in the car waiting with DH to go on an outing.

Has anyone else dealt with this fear at their house? Is there any hope that my carpets will ever be clean on a regular basis again? The easy solution would be to install hardwoods...which we may be doing anyways...but it really doesn't get at the heart of the problem. I am torn between letting them "outgrow this", like I did, or coming up with some intervention plan. All suggestions welcome.


  • Well, from what I remember, every child is born with a fear of loud noises. So you know it's totally normal. (We have had numerous issues with blenders and electric mixers...) My first kid was afraid of the vacuum. Second I don't even remember. For as long as I can note a reaction, my third has loved it. She runs after it. I have to move her so I can vacuum under her. I would only say to deal with it like you have--even though it may be crazy. I'm sure someone else has better advice, but so many child/babyhood things are phases we just work through. I must say though, I got a good laugh picturing your boys running hysterically around the house (ok, minus the crying).
    posted by Blogger Katie at 3/18/2007 06:51:00 PM  

  • Hmmm, not sure how old your boys are, but here are a couple things that helped me. Let them run the vacuum, or buy them mini-vacuums and let them vacuum with you. Make it a big deal of fun. Also, give them a treat every time before you turn it on. Have a "Vacuum Party" so they associate good things with the noise. Good luck!
    posted by Anonymous Ahna at 3/18/2007 06:54:00 PM  

  • It could be a sensory integration problem. (All my children have sensory issues, as do I.) Do a Google search for "vacuum noise sensory integration" and you'll find lots of info.
    posted by Anonymous Susan M at 3/18/2007 07:18:00 PM  

  • I don't have any suggestions for you Jen. We have a canister vacuum that the girls enjoy riding like a bucking bronco as I go through the house.

    But I loved the picture you painted of how the kids react to the vacuum. I have to say the way you described it is pretty funny even though I know it must be frustrating.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 3/19/2007 08:39:00 AM  

  • I'd put them in a special "safe spot", like up on a bed or in a room where you promise not to go, and tell them you have to vacuum but they're in the "safe zone" so not to worry.

    That could work if it's anxiety. If it's sensory, you'll just have to keep working around their absence.
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 3/19/2007 09:10:00 AM  

  • I don't know if this is a very sensible solution, but I only vacuum when DH is home. Maybe that's also b/c my guy is both scared of, and fascinated by, the vacuum. He follows it around the floor trying to figure it out, while crying at the same time. Good luck. Let us know what you end up doing.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 3/19/2007 02:57:00 PM  

  • Don't have a lot of experience with this, but while SJ is still small enough, I put her in the bjorn while I vacuum and it seems to work alright. That won't be an option for too much longer though, so if you figure out something that works, let us know. =)
    posted by Blogger sunny at 3/19/2007 05:47:00 PM  

  • Sorry - my little guy loves the vacuum. My problem is him trying to follow it around too closely.
    Maybe you can try putting something visible on the floor - clumps of dirt, crumbs, something stinky then showing the boys that the vacum helps get rid of the mess like magic. I don't know...
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 3/20/2007 10:12:00 PM  

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