We encourage the kids to manage their own stuff – schedules, cell phones, texting, money, chores, rooms, clothes, etc. We spell out what’s expected and are happy to assist them if they want us to. And we think they do a great job with most of these things most of the time. We tell them, “Our first choice is to have you manage [particular thing], but if you don’t, we’ll manage it for you.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Since she became a teen, Lauren has not seen eye-to-eye with us on what is meant by “clean room.” We have stated on several occasions (in a corollary to the above philosophy of managing) that failure to meet minimum standards automatically authorizes us to take the matter into our own hands. I think it’s been perceived as an idle threat, partly because we all knew that following through would be such a tall order.
After conditions in her room deteriorated badly over the weekend, I restated the corollary before Lauren left for work on Monday. “I know, Dad.” Her statement was accompanied by a particular movement of the head that obviously means, “you are a moron.” When she left, I knew that the hour had come to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Most of my day was spent on her desk, organizing a pile of admissions materials from colleges, gathering up issues of Seventeen magazine, putting away pens, erasers, scissors, glue sticks, and photos. I discovered two tubs of dried out cookie dough, two of our forks, and our household bottle of vanilla in a desk drawer. There were measuring tapes and eye drops and sunscreen and water bottles and books and CDs and batteries and combs and fingernail polish and key chains and bus tickets and gift cards and lotion and rubber balls and jewelry and band-aids and stuffed animals. Susan rearranged the closet and dresser, shoveled out debris from the corners of the room (finding another fork and two spoons in the process), and treated the floor to some Murphy’s Oil soap. We both worked for several hours, and that room has never looked better. We’d forgotten what a nice space it is.
Lauren was speechless when she came home that evening. She went right through the stack of pictures, papers, and notes that we had set aside (without reading), and decided what to keep. Then, to our delight, she started adding files to her newly-organized file drawer.
One new request is that Lauren take what she needs from the household supplies rather than having everything warehoused in her room. We also want her to clean out the “office” she has set up in her bed and furnished with reading material, snacks, electronic devices, pillows, writing instruments and art supplies… We’ll be checking her progress soon.
One thing is now very clear: there’s no more question about what is meant by “clean room.”