Right after I walk the girls to school and grab a cup of coffee (always a cup of coffee before anything else) I spend about five to ten minutes in their bedroom, kind of setting things straight. Then checking their bathroom to make sure that there are no clothes lying on the floor and that the towels have been hung up. They are just getting into all of the scented shower gels and body lotions so inevitably, there’s a mess on the counter waiting to be wiped away. And the globs of toothpaste in the sink! Do your kids do this or are mine the only ones who apparently use half of the tube of toothpaste every time that they brush? I always ask them if they think they have dinosaur teeth and that’s why they need so much toothpaste.
Next, I make the beds and pick up the menagerie of stuffed animals just so I can actually walk around without falling. It doesn’t always work. A few weeks back I stepped on some baby doll toy hidden under some other pink, sparkly, fuzzy thing and ended messing up my sciatic nerve while trying to keep myself from falling. After that I took a little break from picking up their room.
One of them – I’m not saying which one – usually makes her own bed while the other never does. I can not remember as a kid not making my bed each morning. My mother and father – both Type A personalities – would never allow that to happen. Every morning I would get up, turn around and make my bed before I left my bedroom – no questions asked. That’s the way we lived and I honestly thought that everyone else did, too. That is until I went over one of my friend’s house one afternoon after school.
I stood in the doorway of her bedroom in complete and total shock looking at the unmade bed and the piles of clothing lying around. Toys and pieces of board games were strewn about and there was even a half empty, plastic, yellow cup of milk sitting on the window sill. It was simply amazing to me that this girl was ever allowed outside after such as this. I thought to myself, “She is about to get her butt beat for this!!!” She was a very happy girl who always seemed so sensible. Yet, I couldn’t figure out what made her think that it was a good idea to bring me here? Not only did she neglect to make her bed that morning, but she actually brought someone home to see it! We were about 9 or 10 – years old at the time and at that age, the only thing worse than getting a spanking was getting one in front of someone else. Something my father had no problem doing. At that moment I felt very sorry for her. I also thought that I should get out of Dodge before her parents realized I was bearing witness to this travesty.
Pardon me, but I think that I should say that I was raised before spanking became taboo. I am a perfectly happy, well-adjusted and normal (depending on how you define normal) woman. Please don’t send me any letters/messages about my awful childhood because I was never abused and I love, as well as respect, my parents dearly.
Back to my friend…
She welcomed me in and showed me pictures of her family’s summer vacation to Wisconsin in a photo album that she dug out from under a pile of whatever. Her room was yellow, or at least the parts that I could see were yellow. Yellow has always been one of my favorite colors. We cleared away a spot on the floor among all the clothes, toys, shoes and whatnot and started working on whatever school project we had brought home. About this time her mother knocked on the door and I fully expected her to lose her complete mind when she entered the room. As she opened the door, I prepared to hear her gasp, scream, curse (or any combination thereof) then ask me to leave, but instead she smiled and said, “Hi, girls! Want me to bring you a snack?”
What in the world was going on here?! A horse fly could have flown into my mouth because it was actually hanging that far open. I didn’t know if her mother was secretly seething under that cheery façade or she was actually that nonchalant about the mass chaos that enveloped her daughter’s room. However, what I did know is that had this situation been reversed and my mother been the one to enter that room, hurricane Beatrice would have taken me out!
Yes, we wanted a snack.
We had Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, I think. She had milk with hers and no, she didn’t drink the remainder of the milk from the cup on the window sill. I had juice – Tang to be exact. We finished our work and goofed around a bit before it was time for me to go. Her mother (who reminded me of Suzanne Pleshette from the “Bob Newheart Show”) was just as pleasant when I left an hour and a half later as she had been earlier.
It was puzzling and I just couldn’t reconcile the scene in her room with the reward of cookies and Tang. You’ll notice that I was really stuck on the Tang. We never had Tang at my house. We had orange juice – once a day out of a 4 ounce juice cup because it was too expensive to drink out of a regular glass anytime that you wanted. My parents were anything but extravagant. They also didn’t like Tang.
I didn’t bother telling my mother about what had happened because I knew better. She would have looked shocked and disgusted, then declared those people to be nasty. It was a conversation that we just didn’t need to have.
However, as a mother myself I have broken tradition with my mother. While I do encourage the girls to make their own beds and pick up their rooms most of the time, it’s just not something that I stress over. As long as it doesn’t spill out all over the house, I try to take it in stride. Mother’s have a lot of battles to fight and this is one that I choose not to go to the mat over. And sometimes it’s actually fun to get in there and clean with them. We use the time to talk about their day and any plans we may have for the weekend coming up. We sing and act silly; or we talk about anything that might be bothering them. They’re always full of conversation.
While I do not allow half empty cups of milk or anything else and food is generally forbidden in their room, I allow them a little creative license when it comes to organizing their things. After all, it is their room. Admittedly when it looks like there just might be a troll living in that sea of mess all over the floor, I do ask them to not take their friends in the room. I wouldn’t want to lose anyone in there.
Isn’t it funny how the slightest thing can shake loose a memory that has long since been forgotten? I don’t know what happened this morning to make me think of what will now be known as the Tang incident. However, I do have a confession to make: Sometimes, I don’t make my bed either. Call it slovenly or rebellious – I just don’t always get around to it. You know what else? Sometimes, I eat cookies while I’m reading or watching TV in the bed. I know… SHOCKING! I’m sure if my mother knew any of this she would be traumatized and label herself a failure.
She’s not a failure at all. I guess I’m just a rebel – a without a cause.