Room for improvement

As I’m delivering a foot-high pile of freshly washed and folded clothes (aren’t I a nice mom) to my 17 year-old daughter’s room, I encounter a problem; I can’t find anywhere to set down the stack of jeans, tops, leggings, and assorted mismatched socks. Every surface – including the floor – already has something on it. School papers, text books, empty Target bags, more clothes, a sleeping cat, towels, a still-packed backpack that I think she used in 8th grade – make up the topography of her room. I resort to putting them on top of another pile of clean clothes still leaning precariously against the foot of her bed that I had deposited in her room several days ago.

Have I failed as a mother? If the state of Jennifer Lynn’s room were measured against my mother’s standards for how a household should be run, the answer would certainly be “yes.” When I was a teenager, my mother never would have allowed me to have piles of stuff strewn about my bedroom.

Not only was my room kept neat when I was growing up, it amazes me to think back that it was expected – and I complied – that once a week everything was moved off of my dresser and desk and the surfaces were thoroughly dusted. My attitude is that it’s a good thing we moved twice in the last two years because it shook loose the previous 17 years of dust that had accumulated on the knickknacks and shelves in my kids’ rooms.

But I don’t think the fallen state of our children’s rooms is unique to our household. Last week, another mom was telling me how her daughter’s room is a disaster. Like me, it irritates her that her daughter’s room looks like it was struck by a tornado when she works hard to keep the rest of the house tidy, if not white-glove dust free. And I’ve heard other moms talk about their struggle with the state of chaos in their daughter’s rooms. It’s seems an entire generation is incapable of putting their socks away.

But I can only blame myself. Did I enforce any rules about keeping her room tidy? Nope. Back in the ice age when I was a teenager, a shopping outing only happened after all the chores were done and that included dusting the dresser along with putting your clothes away and vacuuming.

Which leads me to wonder why I didn’t enforce the same kind of system with my own daughters. Why do I expect less of them than was expected of me? Do we think more is demanded of them in school that was demanded of us, so we let them off the hook on tasks at home? If I see Jennifer flopped on the couch watching “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix, should I insist she turn it off until she cleans her room and I deem that it passes inspection?

I guess I’m just not that much of a drill sergeant after all. And when I start to getting all righteous about Jennifer keeping her room clean, I should take a closer look our nightstands. Something about the speck of (saw) dust in my daughter’s room while I pay no attention to the blanket (of dust) in my own room…


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