Looking for tidy answers in a messy bedroom

One morning at the bus stop, my daughter Emma approached me, ashen-faced, worry creasing her forehead, tears welling in her beautiful brown eyes.

“Dad, I have a choir concert today,” she said.

This was problematic since I knew nothing about it. Neither did she, apparently. She was not wearing her choir dress, nor did she have it with her.

Just then the bus pulled up. Emma approached the door, wiping away tears. I told her I’d take care of it. She nodded. She didn’t look confident.

Neither was I. But I was tasked with finding a choir dress, tights and shoes for my daughter and running it up to her at school, so that’s exactly what I would do.

A bigger question now loomed: Where to find it? I reluctantly started in her room. And there, miraculously, in the middle of the room, amid the dolls and books and clothes and assorted tween detritus, was the dress. With tights underneath it. And shoes nearby.

I’d swear they were bathed in a faint light. As I got in the car, I thought of one thing and one thing only:

Sometimes it pays to be blessed with a daughter who can’t keep her room clean and straight.

She just turned 13 and has many positive attributes: She’s kind, respectful, confident, works hard in school and surrounds herself with good friends. But her ability to push her bedroom to new heights of clutter, disorganization and general dishevelment leaves me speechless.

It’s not unsanitary; there’s no toxic cereal blooming in a long-forgotten bowl. But the dolls have given way to stylish boots, headbands and bottles of fingernail polish, while the books and clothes remain and have multiplied.

And it’s not just her. My two sons share a room so you can imagine the hats and basketball shoes scattered haphazardly, the stuffed animals and toys and games and socks that can’t seem to find their way to their rightful place.

Why do they choose to live this way? What’s not clicking in their brains, despite my repeated warnings? I was by no means a neat freak as a kid but I don’t remember my bedroom being such a disaster area. Maybe I just had less stuff to cram within its four walls?

I constantly remind myself to balance my expectations of their behavior. I sometimes expect too much too soon. I also think a tidy room, and taking care of their things, is a good way to teach personal responsibility. Experts advise settling on standards, for everything from what constitutes “clean” to how often the bedroom needs to be organized.

Consistency is my biggest challenge. Of course, it’s the biggest challenge with so much about parenting. But if I can just see wide swaths of the carpet, I’ll consider it a victory.

After that, I’ll work on getting them to turn the light off.

 

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