I stepped into her room and had to swallow a gasp. An explosion. An implosion? I wasn’t sure, but one of the two had clearly happened. There were bits of paper and cardboard and ribbon – and yes, even a granola bar wrapper – strewn about the room. American Girl dolls clearly had been a love for a while because the brand screamed its name loudly among the chaos – a science set here, a pink scooter there, an outfit or ten over there and there and there and there, several dolls lying haphazardly around the floor. I thought back to my childhood where I’d just wanted one doll. Just one. My daughter has several. She’s clearly spoiled (in this case by her very loving Nana). Colored pencils and markers and paintbrushes were peeking out here and there throughout the chaos. Clothes from Children’s Place and Kohl’s and Target. Books. Oh my. The books. My heart swelled with a little pride at my devout reader even as it cringed in fear from the monster that was surely going to rise up and eat us all.
She’s nine. She’s a hoarder.
Normally we keep a lid on the chaos by tossing boxes and containers her way that she can store all her beloved treasures in. Feathers, pine needles, geodes, other rocks, acorn caps, pine tree sap (don’t even ASK – I know I sure didn’t), drawings upon drawings upon drawings upon drawings.
She’s a budding scientist, an avid reader, an artist, and a little girl.
This little girl’s room was terrible. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk out and leave that there. It was intense. The gene that makes me crave organization rose up and ran in terror through my entire body. I got chills and a little nauseated.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a little. Then again, my temper about hit the flash point, so maybe I’m not.
I told her to stay in her room and look around for things she could clean. I came upstairs to my office (which doubles as my bedroom depending on the time of day). I started googling. “My daughter will not clean her room” the search string read. It could very well have had some four-letter words in there, but I somehow, miraculously, refrained.
One of the first hits reminded me of a strategy I used to employ. A strategy I’d researched before and used when I was really upset. A strategy that for some reason had completely eluded me recently. Why is it that sometimes we have all the best intentions and training and knowledge and education, but we completely forget it? I’ve probably learned every great parenting tactic out there at least once, but they don’t seem to rise up to the forefront when I’m in the moment.
I went back downstairs with my coupons from the Sunday paper and my coupon organization book. I grabbed my iPhone. I grabbed some Cheez-Its. (Yes, I blush as I recollect this, but I am attempting to live out loud HONESTLY.) I set up Audible with Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, then paused it. (As a side note, I’d been lucky enough to take advantage of a sale Audible was having where you can buy two books with one credit. Dragonflight was one of the ones I purchased; Journey to the Center of the Earth with Tim Curry was the other.)
“Sammi. I am going to sit here and go through my coupons. We’re going to listen to a book. Whenever you get stuck, I’m here to help. Whenever you stop, so does the book. Here’s the trashcan. Let’s figure out a place for everything so everything can be in its place.”
She looked relieved. Why had I forgotten how lonely it is to be confronted with a huge mess and be told you have to spend time cleaning it on your own? Why had I forgotten how overwhelming it is when you aren’t really sure what to do with your things? I struggle with it myself in my office (slash bedroom) where it seems like paper gets together and breeds like mice. I think the paper was taking clues from the dust bunnies under our bed, and I’m tired of the rodent-like behavior.
I sat down in her incredibly soft aqua saucer chair and got to work.
Happily. Surprisingly. Delightfully. So did she.