I could have sworn that following my one and only pregnancy I gave birth to a bouncing baby girl. As it turns out, I gave birth to a little piglet. For the first 12 years, Lucy pulled the wool right over my eyes. She kept her bedroom spic and span. Not a pencil out of place. Pillows beautifully arranged atop her perfectly fluffed duvet. Slippers neatly placed beside her pretty white bed. Photographs pinned symmetrically on her cork bulletin board. But then 14 happened, and her room morphed into a teenage pigsty.
They say we’re supposed to pick our battles. Over the years, I’ve picked many. Insisting that my daughter keep her room neat and tidy simply wasn’t one of them. But earlier today, I wondered if it was time to put on the gloves.
A few hours ago, I walked into Lucy’s room to ask her a question. Holy. Pigsty. I’d say all of her personal belongings are scattered across the floor, but the truth is I’m not even sure there’s a floor in there at all because that gloriously gleaming hardwood we installed five years ago is completely out of sight. What the heck is up with that? Unable to answer this question myself, I turned to an article in Psychology Today.
Just as I thought, Lucy’s teenage pigsty is completely normal.
According to Carl E. Pickhardt Ph. D., the teenage room is:
“emblematic of the adolescent age. Usually beginning in early adolescence (years 9 – 13) as a function of personal disorganization brought on by more growth change than the young person can easily manage, this state of internal confusion and external disarray quickly attracts parental attention. So to begin with, parents need to understand that early adolescents are honorably disorganized.”
Alrighty, Dr. Carl. So what you’re telling me is that Lucy is a regular teenage girl. That’s awesome. Does that mean I was right when I chose not to fight this battle? I mean, it’s just a room, right? It has a door. She keeps it closed. There aren’t any rodents in there (yet). Does it really matter if she keeps it tidy? Let’s run it through Dr. Laurence D. Steinberg’s checklist for parenting decisions.
My daughter wants to live in a pigsty.
- Is what my child wants to do dangerous? Nope.
- Is what my child wants to do unhealthy? Nope.
- Is what my child wants to do illegal or immoral? Nope.
- Is what my child wants to do likely to lead to trouble? Nope.
- If something goes wrong, are the consequences irreparable or difficult to undo? If she suffocates beneath a pile of clothing, yes, but that’s highly unlikely.
Sounds like I’m off the hook, but heck, I don’t wanna be. I want a good reason to remove that farmyard from my family home. Back to Dr. Carl I go.
Dr. Carl’s reasons for fighting the battle of the pigsty
- “…the messy room can feel like an affront to domestic order.” Maybe, but if the door is closed, I don’t actually find it that affronting.
- “Parents who let the matter go tend to do so to their cost. They adjust to what they don’t like and then blame the adolescent for their unhappiness.” Call me blessed, but with or without Lucy’s messy room, I’m pretty darn happy, so no blame-slinging here.
- “By insisting on regular room clean up, you let it be known that your child must live on your terms so long as he or she is dependent on your care.” I hear you, Dr. Carl, but really, that’s such a cliche.
- “Remember, if your child knows you will keep after the small responsibilities, like cleaning up a messy room, he or she also knows you will be keeping after big stuff like obedience to major rules.” BINGO. I’ve found my answer!
Why does Dr. Carl’s last point resonate with me? Well, if I can teach Lucy to respect trivial rules like keeping her room tidy, I’ll probably have a better shot at teaching her to respect serious rules, like never accepting drinks from strangers or getting in cars with drunk friends. Ain’t nothing trivial about that.
One last thing. While I was writing this, didn’t Lucy just go ahead and tidy her room! Dang it, that girl’s always trying to make a liar out of me!
Oh, and one more last-last thing. If you enjoyed reading this, you might want to check out This bitch is back.
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