I have a new Roomba. I thought I wanted one more than just about anything. And then I got one.
And I was RIGHT! This thing has changed my life. My floors look amazing, even with three kids, one golden retriever, two cats, and a giant rabbit in the house. And I swear that has inspired me to clean everything else more, too!
But what I didn’t expect was this: the Roomba is basically just like another child.
When it gets too quiet, you know it’s in trouble.
The other day, I had it running cheerfully in the background while I was working. Immersed in my work, at first I noticed its hum in the kitchen, and then heard it grow more faint when it moved into the living room. But I failed to notice when everything got too quiet. Eventually I had that startling realization that every parent knows: no sound.
I got up and hustled out of my office and only then caught the sound of the Roomba somewhere far away. I had shut the door to my daughter’s room (because her room tends to be a huge mess), but it had busted it open, gone inside, and SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND IT before starting to vacuum up all of my daughter’s worldly goods.
Now, some might argue that it was trying to do us all a favor, but the sneakiness was just appalling!
Another day, I also suddenly noticed the deafening quiet, and had to search high and low to find the thing, peering under couches and behind closed doors (see the above), finally finding it engulfed in fish-aquarium-cleaning hoses underneath a cabinet in the living room. Its little red light was flashing, but I hadn’t been able to hear its cries.
This a common parenting problem.
You Return and Find the Baby Crying, Playing with Naked Barbies, and Wearing a Tie
You have to stay on it or it doesn’t finish its work.
I had the Roomba in my hall the other day, and it vacuumed around for a while, and then cheerfully parked itself, midhallway, and made its victorious “All of the things are clean” noise. Yeah, no, you’re not done! You haven’t even started on the bathroom!
Sometimes it gets lost or confused, and you have to help it. It’ll be there, spinning in a corner, and you have to gently redirect it. It goes into the bathroom and shuts the door, forgetting that the bathroom is only about two square feet, and it drives around and around in there, accomplishing little. You don’t want to do its work for it, but you need to provide it with some instruction and assistance before it can really be a productive citizen and member of the household.
It bullies its siblings.
I had been worried that the Roomba would disturb the cats. But no, they’re fine. They just sneak around after it, looking intrigued. But Noah–Noah is terrified. On the vacuum’s first day, he started out excited to see it driving around, but when it suddenly changed course and headed straight for him, he spiraled into a blind panic. He fled, wailing, every time he was in the same room as it.
After a while, he seems to have grown more brave, and will even occasionally press the cleaning button to get it going–but I wonder if that’s just some kind of daredevil urge, since he still clearly feels nervous. As we were sitting on the couch, reading stories, the Roomba sped toward us, heading for the area under the couch, and Noah quietly asked, “Can it jump?”
It requires a lot of grooming.
The Roomba comes with a comb. A comb! And the comb has a little hair-cutter on it. This is actually great, because I want to keep this appliance working as long as possible. But I’m realizing that I’m spending kind of a weird amount of time lovingly dusting its sensors and untangling hair from its brushes. Possibly more time than I’m spending on my children’s grooming–I swear, I just CUT their nails! I don’t know why they are so long again! Remind me that I should put the boy in the bath, once I’m done screwing the Roomba’s front wheel back on. All better! Whoops, dang, now there’s no time for that bath.
Thankfully, this is all stuff I am used to, so I am able to keep my eye on this new member of my household. I have lots of experience with people who are mostly well meaning, but who can also become lost or injured or start fighting for the Dark Side when not properly monitored. I thought about naming this essay, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My Roomba,” but the truth is, everything I need to know about my Roomba I learned from my children.
…Sorry, I just realized I can’t hear the Roomba anymore, so I have to go.