There’s something I really hate about my kids.
But I’m OK with that.
I had this realization when I was trying to enter Slick’s room recently, but was stopped a few feet in the door by the arrangement of debris and furniture. I made a comment about not being able to walk around all the stuff, expecting a guilt-ridden boy to hop up and clear a path for me. Instead he replied, “I like it that way.”
It took me a minute to process what he said. Then I looked around, and from where he was sitting, on his big, oversized chair next to his bed, everything was perfect. His laptop was within reach, the table he does homework on was at his right hand, his gaming chair perfectly positioned in front of the tv with the Xbox nestled below. Sure he had to navigate around things to get to his little cocoon, but once there, everything was at his fingertips. I just had to look at it through his eyes to see it.
My next stop was The Caboose’s room. I paused at the door, looking in. I saw a cluttered, disheveled mess. Crap all over the dressers, toys pushed to the perimeter of the room, clothes hanging on the closet doors. Then I went in, and sat in the “clear” area where he sits when he plays. Everything was within reach. There were dirty clothes among the toys and shoes scattered about, but when I called him up to ask him if he liked it like that, he said that he did.
I’ve tried many times to clear some of the junk from their rooms. We go through the clutter, item-by-item, and I ask if they’re ready to part with things. The answer is always the same. Those dust catchers are markers of their lives. Souvenirs from vacations, sports memorabilia from favorite teams, art projects they made themselves. Every piece is part of them, and they want them there. The collection continues to grow. The clutter stays.
They may go a few days without putting clothes in the hamper, but eventually it gets done. The consequence is theirs when the shirt they want to wear isn’t clean. And they always manage to find the shoes they need, and seem to know right where to look. Perhaps there really is some organization amongst their chaos. I just don’t understand the methodology.
As for the closet doors being open (a pet peeve of mine), I saw it as a sign of maturity. There are no longer monsters in that closet, so there’s no need to close the doors to keep them in.
That particular day The Caboose’s covers and pillows were on the floor, a reminder that he has recently taken to sleeping beside his bed instead of on it. At first it was just on weekends, like a one-man sleepover, but then he started sleeping on the floor every night. He said he liked it. I resisted at first, because you’re not “supposed” to do that. But he was sleeping, which was the goal, so I allowed it. He kisses me goodnight, and crawls into his little space without a peep. Another parenting standard out the window.
This was an epiphany for me.
Children have very little control over their world. They spend most of their waking hours trying to accommodate the requests of parents and teachers, much of the time operating in a manner that’s not in their comfort zone. We tell them when to go to bed, when to wake up, what to wear, where to go. Teachers tell them where to sit, what page to turn to, when the can go to the bathroom. I started feeling like the least I could do was to cut them a little slack about their room.
I needed to put into practice the best parenting advice there is: Choose Your Battles.
It would be easy to fight constantly with your kids, because adults and kids have very different views of things. But there are things that really matter, and things that really don’t. And I’m going to start giving less importance to the things that don’t really matter, and saving my ammunition for the things that do. The worst thing we parents can do is exert control over our kids just because we can.
So if you stop by, and my kids’ rooms are a mess, don’t expect an apology. As long as they stay within the parameters we agree on (safe passage to and from the bed, closet, and door) I’m going to give them some latitude. And let them have their Boy Caves the way they like them.