Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Adventures in Housecleaning

Last fall (about 6 months ago) I handed my 15 year old son a box containing his winter clothes. I instructed him to change out his dresser drawers, i.e., take out his summer clothes, put them in the box for winter storage, and put his winter clothes in his dresser. In the past I always supervised this chore, or more accurately, I did it with him looking on. This time, however, I reasoned that he was old enough, mature enough, responsible enough to do it himself. Besides, I was busy with other things.

Since I avoid going into my son's room I didn't pay too much attention as to whether or not he had followed my instructions. He started wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, sweaters. All was in order, or so I thought.

The one time I do go into my son's room is in the morning--to wake him up. Even though he dutifully sets his clock radio every night, it does not wake him up in the morning. I've never known anyone who could sleep so soundly. I can hear his radio blaring through the floor (he's in the basement). I go down after 10 or 15 minutes to see if he's getting up, and the room is dark, the radio is on, the fan is blowing, and the lump under the covers is not moving. Stumbling through the room to his bed, I turn off the fan, turn the radio on a little louder, turn on his bedside light, and start shaking the lump. "Time to get up, son. Do you hear me?" I leave him so he can get up and get dressed. Usually I have to bang on the floor above his bed at least once to "remind" him it's time to get up. I'll hear a muffled, hoarse, "I'm getting up, Mom." Minutes later he appears.

All this to say, I did not notice anything amiss with his room. Periodically, I asked him to clean his room--afterall I was stumbling over something in the mornings. A good mother tells her child to do something and then checks to see if he's done it. If he has she can bless him; if he hasn't she can remind him, help him, or discipline him depending on his age and the situation. Because my son is a really good kid, helps out a lot around the house and is very low maintenance, I didn't follow up on the "clean your room" chore.

That's why when he started complaining that his room was too small, a red flag went up on my mother's radar screen. How could his room be too small, I asked. He has a very nice sized room and he thought it was plenty big when he moved into it last summer. (My husband built the room in an open area in our basement--another story.) I suggested that perhaps it seemed small because it was so messy. This brought a very pained look to my son's face since he knew what was coming next.

I realized that the job was too daunting for my son to tackle by himself. Afterall he is a male and most of them become dazed and confused over the idea of a big cleaning project. That is why I told him this past Saturday that he had a date with destiny. Words like that from your mother are very frightening. What can she possibly mean? I didn't let him sweat too long though and directed him to his room where I offered to help him clean it.

First we tackled an armchair in his room that no one had sat in for a long time. Why? Because it was stacked high with stuff. As I put away the stuff--blankets and a sleeping bag--I came across clothes. Some of them were clean, but most were dirty. Behind the chair and piled at the foot of his bed were more clothes--in the same categories. As I began to make a very large laundry pile I remembered something. I rarely ever have any items for him when I'm folding laundry. All this time I've been in denial. He never smelled bad so I didn't realize he was wearing the same things over and over, with the occasional token item in the laundry hamper just to humor me.

The other thing I noticed was the empty box that once contained the winter clothes now lying dirty in a mountainous laundry pile. If the box was empty, where were the summer clothes from last year that were supposed to go in it? Why of course, they were still in the dresser! The dresser was filled with clothes that looked like they belonged to a midget since my son has grown about 4 inches since last spring. Every item of clothing in that dresser was too small for him. He hasn't used his dresser for at least 6 months.

When I told my 12 year old daughter about my adventure she said in disgust, "No wonder he never said anything about my April Fool's joke. I switched his dresser drawers around!" And so ended my adventure in housecleaning. Clean clothes that actually fit now fill my son's dresser, the chair is empty and ready to be sat upon, the room has become spacious once again, and I have a bag full of socks for cleaning rags. Do I have to wash them first?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Dare to Petition

Since my oldest child is fast approaching her 18th birthday, I've been reflecting on those first years as a new parent. I was going to be the best mother I could possibly be; and I had all the right books to guide me in that noble endeavor. I won't mention any titles because I don't want to disparage any of those gifted authors. But there was one book in particular that I was counting on to help me with any and all discipline issues that would arise with my precious, sweet child. Perhaps I even looked forward to that first event when I could assert my parental authority with all my newly gained wisdom.

I don't remember what my darling daughter did that first prompted me to apply a method suggested in my favorite parenting book. I do remember that my disciplinary method did not work. In fact, it failed miserably. I was stunned and frightened.

If the expert's advice did not work, I was lost. I certainly had no experience with this kind of thing. I was a brand new parent, I knew nothing. I was on my own. Or was I?

I had forgotten who the real expert is, the one who knows perfectly the best discipline for any situation, for any age. Yes, you know who I am talking about. And he inspired a book, too! Not only did he have a book; he was available for consultation anytime I was ready to ask for help.

I made my consultation with the Heavenly Father. I asked Him what to do about the particular situation I was concerned with. He gave me an inspiration, or an answer, whichever term suits your theology. I have consulted Him ever since then, especially when my earthly wisdom falls short of the measure. He has never failed to help me when I've petitioned Him.

Who needs books on parenting when the best parent, the Heavenly Father, is available to guide us in that worthy endeavor.