Monday, January 2, 2012

The Pile

It's difficult to be tidy when one is young.

When Herself was a child and a teenager, keeping her room clean was a fairly low priority.  She was not sloppy -- no food was allowed in bedrooms, so there were no crumbs or dishes -- but toys or clothes or possessions did not always find their ways back to where they belonged promptly. In high school, her classes were quite rigorous, so organization of anything except for schoolwork took a back seat to studies.

Occasionally, the mess of her room would become intolerable to her mother.  And so, when Herself was out at school or outside playing or elsewhere, her mother would go into Herself's room and make The Pile.  Any item that was out of place -- be it book, shirt, toy, or other item  -- would be put into The Pile in the middle of the room.  When Herself would return to her room, she would, without warning, find The Pile.  Her obligation at that point was to put away properly all of the contents of The Pile.

Herself hated finding The Pile.  She always found it to be a tremendous violation of her space and her privacy to discover that her possessions had been moved in this manner, and she no longer felt safe or comfortable in her own room.  She would cry in anger and frustration while she put her things away.  She vowed that she would never use The Pile upon her own children.

Now, so many years later, she has the Offspring.  They find keeping their rooms clean to be a fairly low priority, just as she did at their ages.  Herself reminds them to pick up when the floor is no longer visible, points out specific tasks that need to be done, and so forth.  Unfortunately, the Offspring have packrat tendencies; there are times when their rooms need intervention. 

Herself resorts to very specific sequential instructions.  Sometimes, little gets done. It is frustrating.  It is such a difficult line to walk:  to respect their autonomy and privacy, and yet to help them to figure out to clean and to manage their possessions properly.  Many times, it seems as though it would be easier for her to go in herself and clean up.  Yet what would truly be accomplished then, and at what price?  They would learn nothing. They may very well find it to be an intolerable invasion of their space. It is better that they should accomplish their own tasks. She volunteers to assist, but tries to leave them be when they prefer to do things themselves.

This has, oddly, been one of the most challenging parts of parenting.  Hopefully, in time all of the Offspring will become tidy individuals.  We shall see.

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