I am hiding upstairs in my office while my husband supervises the boys in the now-ritualistic Back-in-School Room Clean-up. Today is the day the boys finally “get organized” for school, removing all Legos, Nerf guns and tools from the surface of their desks to make room for Serious Studying. Yes, my older son has been back at school for three weeks, but today is the day my husband has an opening in his schedule to oversee their efforts.
This is one of the tasks in the parenting category where my husband outperforms me. (For the record, other tasks on that list include: soccer reffing; audio/visual equipment hookup; and Three Stooges appreciation.) When it comes to supervising the twice-yearly room clean-ups, I lack focus and vision. In other words, I just don’t care.
My boys share my genetic predisposition to a certain comfort level with mess. Despite years of nagging—er, I mean encouragement—from my mother, I never cared if my room was a mess. Could I see my bed? Yes. Could I find my clothes? Yes. Could I see the floor? Probably not. But no amount of pleading on my mother’s part could get me to embrace organization. In my defense, my room was clean in the germ-free sense, just messy . It was really only a couple of years into my marriage where I realized my habits of piling, stuffing and randomly tossing items could be a real dealbreaker with my husband. So gradually I adapted a neater lifestyle. I’ll never arrange the jackets in my closet by colors like he does, but I have managed to keep house at a higher level than in the past.
So I don’t get worked up about my boys’ rooms. I remember the battles with my mother that never actually changed my temperament, so I haven’t taken a hard line with my boys. Can they see the bed? Yes. Can they find their clothes? Most of the time. Can they see the floor? Once every couple of months, when my husband gets in there and supervises!
I think I’ll stay in my closet a while longer, until I hear the whining stop.
Lian Dolan is the author of the upcoming novel Helen of Pasadena.