As the boys get older, their rooms get smaller. They may be getting fat, their clothes are taking up more space, and they may have accumulated too much stuff. It may also be because they have shrunk their room.
As I was walking past the two elders’ bedroom the other day, I saw a note on the closed door that read, “Come into this room, stay out!”
Naturally, I am immediately suspicious and I proceed with the classic gestures of a person crossing a railway line or a parent encountering such a sign: I stop, look and listen.
I see no sign of smoke coming from the door and hear no sounds of bubbling chemicals, so I breathe and relax a bit.
Then the oldest comes out of the room and I ask him what he “incites”. He says “just something”. And then he quickly adds, “but it’s NOT a shrink ray like in ‘Honey, I shrunk the kids.'”
My highly calibrated paternal suspicion meter went from low alert to high alert. Not once did I worry about the boys building a shrink ray – until they assured me they weren’t.
A quick look around the room revealed no evidence of anything dangerous, and assuming they hadn’t narrowed down their invention, it seemed like there were more imaginary inventions than real inventions. .
Well I say there was nothing dangerous but the amount of Legos on the floor waiting to pierce a foot and the number of items of clothing that posed a tripping hazard presented evidence of standard room hazards messy.
Upon unfortunately examining the room, I realized that a shrink ray would actually be very useful. The first step would be to stack all their stuff, the second step would be to zap them, and the third step would be to put the little stack in the closet and have a clean room. At first glance, they were putting all their effort into the first step.
The war for a clean room (aka the 10 year war) has been fought in many battles. It seemed like the problem would get better as they got older. There would, in theory, be less toy clutter and more ability to keep things organized as they grow. But the tide has not yet turned in the war, despite many daily battles won by parents.
One of the boys, who will remain anonymous, demonstrated a packrat tendency that borders on the early stage of hoarding. It’s common for boys to find and keep special items: bird feathers, maybe, a puck or two. But this child will fill a dresser drawer with paper clips and broken clothespins or various bags of rocks. The majority of them are basically garbage and some of them are literally garbage and yet everything “must” be saved.
Now you see why these surface battles for a clean room aren’t winning the war. Cleaning the surface is only the first level. And I’m a little afraid to open Pandora’s box of this children’s chest of drawers.
I have to say I’m now a bit disappointed that they weren’t working on a shrink ray. That might be the only thing that could help. That or that was an excuse to put up a sign preventing me from entering their room so I wouldn’t see the mess. It is “inviting” indeed.
Harris and his wife live in Pflugerville with their six sons. Please send comments or suggestions for future columns to [email protected]