Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Incredible Bean Bag

An ongoing challenge for my daughter is her bedroom. She cleaned it yesterday, and when I wandered in this morning, I noticed some things shoved into a corner. It brought back memories....

When we first moved into this house, Daughter chose a large bedroom. It is a wonderful space, but I think it was a tad bit overwhelming for her. In our last home her bedroom had been small, and she was young, so I had helped her keep it clean. When we moved here 12 years ago, I decided she was old enough to take responsibility for it herself. There were daily reminders, but I soon discovered that she was often totally overwhelmed by the bedroom. I began breaking things down into smaller pieces for her: "Go find all the dirty clothes in your room and put them in the hamper." "Pick up the trash and throw it away." "Now put the shoes on their rack." There was always lots of praise when she finished one part, and occasional breaks to reward her progress.

It worked, at least to some degree. She would carefully pick up all the dirty clothes and hide them in the corner of her closet. Trash would find its way into the nearest drawer with some space. Over the years, I learned to not only check her room, but her hiding places. Each time I discovered a hiding place, she seemed to find a new one. If I didn't find the hiding places, and make her clean them out all of the items she had squirreled away in them would be vomited all over her bedroom the first time she couldn't find something.

I pointed out that it was just as easy to put the trash in the wastebasket when she was cleaning, and that then she wouldn't have to deal with it again. I pointed out that dirty socks hidden in a purse didn't get washed. I suggested that failing to properly dispose of syringes and insulin pen needles was dangerous, and reminded her of her grandfather's foot surgery for a needle that he had stepped on. Whenever she couldn't find something and trashed her room searching for it, I would point out that her life would be much easier if she would put things away properly the first time.

It amazed me how quickly she could trash her bedroom, and how long she could agonize over the cleaning process. None of my reasoning, support, consequences, or anything else seemed to have any longterm impact on her. Finally, after several years, things seemed to click. I could go hang up something in her closet without finding it full of mysterious bags jammed full with a fascinating mixture or school papers, trash, food wrappers, dirty clothes, toys, books, etc. I praised her, and enjoyed not having the daily battle.

Then one day I happened to notice that the bean bag chair in the corner under the two windows seemed to be growing. I had never heard of a chair that grew. Curious, I went over to examine the chair more closely. With a sinking feeling, I noticed something was sticking out from under it. With growing dread, I lifted the chair and cautiously looked underneath it. Under that chair I found trash, books, school papers, dirty clothes, shoes, toys, books, and all sorts of other things.

I think it was then that I realized what she was learning from all my work with her on her bedroom: she was learning to be sneakier! Eventually, I moved her into the much smaller guest room. I allowed her a bed, three door dresser, night stand, and lamp. She had 3 or 4 sets of clothing. I set up a plan that would enable her to earn more items in her room as she showed herself to be responsible. She managed to earn a mirror, and over the years books, art supplies, and various other things have found their way into it. Sunday night she was looking for something. I realized how many things had found their way back into there when she spread them all over her floor in her search.

At least she has learned not to ask for tv without cleaning her room. This morning when I wandered in and saw the shoes and pillow piled in the corner, I didn't say anything; I pointed to it and left. We have made progress. The battles over the room are less intense these days, and every so often I get a wonderful laugh when she requests to move back into her old room.
As soon as I begin to laugh, she drops the subject....


TobyBo said...

Welcome to blogland. I see you are taking the opposite approach I use on my blog... I keep mine a fun escape land for myself (at least most of the time).

Reverend Mom said...

Thanks for the welcome. I view this as an opportunity to process and complain in a safe setting. I can't say too much in my community, because everyone is so interconnected. I don't want someone to hesitate to call me in a time of need because they think I have too much on my own plate right now.

I also don't want people with no knowledge of my daughter's issues deciding the problem is simply my parenting. After all, isn't love enough to cure anything? ;}

debinca said...

Hey there awesome mom!!!! Owl