I am a neat, organized person. Some might say uptight, but at least I never loose anything. My ten-year-old son, on the other hand, could never be described as neat or organized. He is a truly random individual and I daily walk the line between letting him be himself and being driven insane by his ways.
Recently, I'd reached my messy room limit. His retreat was a wasteland of Legos, action figures and miscellaneous bits of paper, string and things I couldn't identify. "It's time to clean your room," I said. "You have until noon tomorrow or I'm coming in there. If I have to come in there, you won't be happy." Every good parent knows that consequences should be clearly spelled out, so I added. "I'll have free reign to throw away whatever I see fit."
"Okay," he answered calmly and went back to his computer game.
Before bed, I noticed that he hadn't picked up a single Lego. As a good parent, I wanted to teach him responsibility. He had a time limit and I needed to give him the opportunity to meet it without interference from me. However I couldn't resist a gentle reminder, "You have until noon or I'm going to throw things away."
"I know," he said. "I'll do it in the morning."
At nine the next morning, there were no changes to his room and he'd been up for two hours. I was perplexed. Wasn't he worried about losing some of his favorite things? I was also a little angry. Didn't he appreciate the grace I had already given him? I stalked off to find him, yet again at the computer. I reminded him in my scariest Mommy voice that his toys were in peril.
He glanced at me and said, "I've been thinking about that and I'm just going to let you do it. I need to divest anyway." (Yes, my son knows the word 'divest.')
I was stunned. What had just happened? As a good parent, I needed to follow through with what I'd promised. So his chore was now mine. In his room, I stared at the mad disarray and tried to remember the color of the carpet. With no other options left, I dove in and started to clean.
Part of me wanted to throw everything away just to get back at him, but I didn't have the heart. What kind of parent does that? So I spent two days on biohazard detail. I had cricks in my back, neck and parts of my body I didn't know could develop cricks. I had almost gone blind plucking miniscule toy pieces out of the carpet and nearly gagged over yogurt containers that had been put into the toy bin instead of the trash. Oh, and I did dispose of one and a half black garbage bags full of junk.
Did my son learn his lesson after watching the bags go to the curb? Nooo, I had restored his Lego stash and found toys he thought he had lost. In fact, he thanked me and immediately began to play.
"What went wrong?" I moaned to my husband. "He wasn't even scared."
"Of course not, you're his Mom. He knows that you wouldn't do anything to hurt him," he answered.
I knew there was a lesson here besides how to get your kid to trick you into cleaning his room for him. My son gave me free reign with his most treasured items because he trusted me. I immediately thought about how we are to come to Christ as a little child. I wondered how often I go to God say "I trust You. Here's my life. Clean out the junk."
What was intended as a lesson for my son, taught me a couple of things instead. Good parents always learn from their mistakes and I now know not to include myself in my son's punishments. In case you're interested, my son has yet to ask me for a single item that was in those bags. He's never even missed them.
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