Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bringing Up Boys. Call Me If You Know How.

Conversation at the sink. Small Boy is nonchalantly washing the dishes.

Me: Here's a clean pair of jeans for you. Which drawer are jeans in?Small Boy: I can't remember.Me: Shall I make some labels for you?
Small Boy: Nah, that's OK. There's a weird code. I just have to break it and I'll be like Superman.
Me: ???????????

With the recent (and unexpected) news that we will be having a French exchange student after all, we turned our attention today to the Small Boy's room where 'Frog Boy', as Himself has already affectionately named him, will be staying.

Now Small Boy is not known for his organisational or hygienic qualities. The clothes that he leaves here are stored in two (out of 4) supersized deep drawers that came with the bunks. Because they are so long and deep, they are hard to open and difficult to find things in. At one point I bought some drawer dividers from IKEA and even labelled the inside of the sides of the drawers to indicate which category of clothing went in which divider. Before long, they too were buried at the bottom of the drawers. The question 'how can you find anything' was easily answered by looking at the floor of the room. Small Boy's patented search method was to turf everything he came to out of the drawer and onto the floor until he reached the desired article. He then put it on and left the room.

To add insult to injury, when asked to tidy his room, he scooped up everything on the floor and put it into the washing basket! I found I was washing huge piles of his clothing....and most of it was clean!

Toys are another issue. You can just see, in the photo above, the large white melamine shelves containing the plastic tubs I carefully labelled some years ago. After a few years, I gave up trying to encourage him to put things into the appropriate tubs and just focused on getting him to put them into any tub. After another year or so I gave up altogether. When I nag his father into getting him to 'tidy up', everything is thrown onto the shelves willy nilly. Sometimes it lands in a tub, sometimes not. I have adjusted my mindset to grasp the fact that it is not my problem.Now with the impending arrival of a guest, it has become my problem.

With Mum and Dad's departure, there has been a lot of furniture rearrangement and, in the mix, we found ourselves with a 5 drawer tallboy which I thought might solve the problem. My plan was to remove the large, white (and now very tatty) melamine shelves, sort and rationalise the dated toy collection and put it into the deep drawers. Clothes would then go into the tallboy where there would be a drawer for each category and things would be easier to find (I also hold out a lame hope that the shallower drawers may encourage folding!!!????).

Needless to say my plans were not met with raging approval. Quite the contrary. Now Himself would say that Small Boy has a right to have an opinion about his room and the way it's organised however, Himself does nothing about trying to teach the child to organise himself and merely roars with displeasure when said child cannot find some essential item, particularly at a time when we are due to leave the house in a hurry. Just recently the Small Boy and I had a conversation about this.

Scene: In the kitchen

Me: taking a 'washed' plate, thick with grease and detergent, out of the drying rack:
Small Boy, this one isn't really rinsed properly. Has anyone ever shown you how to rinse the

SB: No! And that's the problem. Everyone is always yelling at me to do things better and no-one
ever shows me how to do it!!!!

Me: I imagine that would be very frustrating. Let me show you what this small half sink here is

The BA, in her excitement over the exchange student, forgets to demonstrate the niceties of detergent application to the Small Boy.

So, in my defence, although the reorganisation of the bedroom has been motivated by the coming exchange student, it is not as if I am simply kicking Small Boy out with no thought to his long term welfare. His room had deteriorated to such a state that he wasn't even playing with any of his toys because he couldn't find any game or set in a complete state. It was overwhelming.

Nevertheless, his passive aggressive resistance to the whole thing was impressive.

Firstly he sat on the bed telling me loudly that the room was fine and didn't need to be organised. He protested repeatedly that he knew where everything was and that not everyone had to be a clean freak like me (hah! you should see my desk!). As I started to take things off the shelves he lounged on the bed picking up random items and playing with them. I asked him to take things out of his drawers. At least 10 times. Finally, as the level of voices rose, his father came in and ordered him to 'get on with it'.

Oh the dragging limbs, the whining complaints, the slow motion removal of items from the drawer, punctuated by 'Oh look THERE's my nerf gun' and the inevitable 5 minute play with it.....

The BA lovingly encourages the Small Boy to stop procrastinating and get on with the dishes.

After I had finally cleared the shelves I turned to the outside door his room enjoys, intending to prop it open for ease of furniture removal. The door opened but the screen was locked.

Me: Small Boy, where are the keys to the screen. Actually, who locked the screen? It wasn't
locked before.....
(secretly I blamed mum for this......she is always locking everything up)
SB:sullenly, I dunno.

Deep breaths.

I went to the key rack whereupon hangs the inevitable collection of keys you get when you move into a house, three quarters of which seem to have no functional purpose. I went through them systematically. The screen would not open.

Me: Small Boy, are you sure you don't know where the keys are?
SB: Well, they used to be on the window ledge next to the door but I don't know where they

Oh great.
Faced with having to take the furniture out through the house (and around some pretty tight corners I might say), I started to clear a path to the door. In the process I also started to remove junk from the other smaller set of shelves; the one that contains pens, pencils, solidified silly putty and, interestingly, 8 tissue paper parcels containing a variety of seeds from a long ago experiment or school fete. I'm not sure which. They went into the trash bag after a short debate over the liklihood of their ever being planted in the next 4 years and I proceeded to the reach to the very back of the bottom shelf where drawings and secret messages were scrunched into a wad up against the wall. As I pulled out the last piece I heard a jangle and felt the cool hard surface of, you guessed it, the missing keys.

After that no-one was game to take me on over the issue of whether the room needed re-organising or not. I moved the furniture and went to scrap booking leaving Himself with the unenviable, but genetically approriate task of getting his son to sort his clothes into the new set of drawers.
Come to think of it, I haven't checked the drawers yet.
Ten bucks says they just threw anything in anywhere.
Anyone game?

This may or may not be the best way to bring up a boy.


Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Oh my gosh - so much of that sounds soooooooooooooo familiar!!!! ESPECIALLY the part where you give up getting him to sort into bins and are just happy if the toys go into any bin. The only difference I can tell is that my boy doesn't actually care if the toys have their parts or not. He's happy to use the legos with playmobile people or whatever he finds at the time. How old is small boy again?

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Oh yeah and congrats on getting the student! I missed something I guess, because I was just here earlier and the post said you WEREN'T getting a student!

Brittany said...

Are these the things I have to look forward to?? EEK! Not looking good...

AND yay on the exchange student!! :) I am so excited for you!!

A Free Man said...

The BAs way is best.

We're having a Scottish exchange student. Of sorts.

Arizaphale said...

Jill: He's 11...nearly 12. And he does not have the creative genius of your boy! More on the student soon.

Brittany: start now and you may not have to go through this.....

AFM: When does she arrive?...can't wait to meet her. AND she speaks French!!!!!