Friday, July 14, 2006

The Clean-Room-Gestapo

You were there. You remember.

The humiliation, the pain, the sheer overwhelming bulk of it. Your room.

Your room was a mess. Years of accumulated junk and toys, half-eaten crackers, cups and plates. It doesn't matter if you were 2 or 20. You had done it: you made a big big mess.

There were your parents. Whether you were 2 or 20, their hulking bulk filled the sky as they glared down at you, tiny lightning bolts flashing in their eyes, and the Commandment came down like thunder, "CLEAN YOUR ROOM!"

As they stormed from the room, you surveyed the cluttered landfill, wondering whether you should start at the lump you think is your bed, or whether maybe it would be better to start from the top and work your way down, after all a lot of towers will be crumbling anyway. Overwhelmed, baffled at the Commandment, and with no good way to tackle the chaos, eyes moist with frustration and helplessness, you wonder why your parents have suddenly abandoned you, and made this unreasonable and surely irrational declaration. After an hour of helplessly transferring items from one pile to another, you turn your eyes upwards, ready to pray for salvation, but instead you swear a solemn oath on your favorite teddy, or maybe your iPod, Never EVER to do this to your children. Your children's room will be their own, safe from worries about parents and cleaning. They can do whatever they want with their room. You don't care how dirty it gets.

Years Go By...

You have your bundle of joy now. You watch your child learn to crawl, to walk. At 9 months you laugh when your child experiments with gravity, but then your child is in the high chair and decides to experiment with the oatmeal. A little less amused the 10th time, now that you've reinforced the behavior by being jovial and putting on a housecleaning show in front of your toddler, you finally frown at your child, and sternly say "NO!"

Fast-forward. Now your child is 2 -- or 20. You walk into the room to trip on a toy car, or to be admonished for stepping on their favorite Teddy. Maybe you step on their iPod. It's ok this time, you make it to the bed, tuck your bundle of joy in, realize the covers are in a huge knot, try to unravel them for the 100th time. You turn out the light, and narrowly escape the room with your life.

You do this over and over. It doesn't matter if you do it 20 or 200 times. There's going to be the one time you don't make it out unscathed.

Maybe it was a wooden block, an ice skate, a pencil point, a 4-sided-die. Whatever it was, you stepped directly on it and the stabbing pain went right up your leg. With the pain came a moment of clarity -- or was that insanity? The room is a hazard! The room has gone untouched for far too long, you've put up with it for far too long, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! There is no way to resist the onrushing waves tossed about by years of neglect and insult. You pay for the house, you pay for their things, you have cleaned up after them, dressed them, bathed them, dedicated endless hours for years and years to keeping them neat, tidy, and healthy. And THIS is how they repay you? Tossing all your labors out the door, carelessly strewing items around the room, inviting vermin with dirty plates and half eaten vittles, and not even trying to make an inviting path to allow you in?!

you. Have. HAD. IT.

Like a Valkyrie or Odin himself, shaking a spear and shouting out a war-cry you denounce your naive youthful oath, and crash down like the very wrath of the gods has filled you, screaming like a banshee, and you make every declaration under the sun swearing that "IF you don't CLEAN THIS ROOM...." and ending it with whatever spills out of your wraith-strewn maw. You can't even remember. It doesn't really matter.

After the one fell incident, you become a police officer, keeping law and order -- your law and your order -- with regard to the tidiness of the room. With every foot your child drags, your threats and declarations escalate into a shrill madness that causes even your own inner child to flee in wild panic. Every speck of dust or item out of place induces threats and limitations: no dessert, no tv, no computer, no movies, no car, no iPod, no GameBoy, no going out, no phone calls, no No NO.

And it doesn't matter if your kid is 2 or 20. In the face of your irrational exhibition, the child will sulk away and make an oath to a long forgotten deity that they will never, ever, tell their child to clean their room...


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