I have already written about my daughter’s room. Basically it’s a mess. It’s a real mess.
No, No Hurricanes Hit It
It’s kind of embarrassing how messy it is, and yet I have no idea how to clean it, so I don’t really know how to tell her to clean it. But periodically I issue various threats and edicts, and I even wrote a psalm about it:
And on the first day of the second month, the mother yelleth at the child. She sayeth, “The day of reckoning hath come. That which thou doth not clean, the garbage bag shalt cleaneth for thee.” And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
—The Book of Motherhood 5:32-33
And after all that is done, often while she is away, I go in, prepared to throw a bunch of stuff away (broken art projects, miscellaneous toy bits, scraps of paper, the odd tissue, etc.) and just start over again. I try to remind myself that she is a unique and special person, capable of many things, and some unique and special people are uniquely disorganized and chaotic. It makes her able to make this:
So maybe it’s some kind of tradeoff that she cannot make it from the breakfast table to the bathroom still remembering that she was supposed to brush her hair.
And yet I digress.
I was not prepared for what I found in her room this time. Candy wrappers. Lots of candy wrappers. So many candy wrappers that I jumped to the conclusion that she was unhappy with her life and had indulged in some kind of horrible binge-fest. I can’t believe how many candy wrappers were in that child’s room.
I called her at her father’s house mostly to make sure she hadn’t eaten all that candy at once. She hadn’t. She had systematically been pilfering it from the Halloween candy stash and inadequately hiding the evidence. Wrappers were under her bed. Wrappers were in her microscope box, as I discovered when I went to put it away. Wrappers were in a cabinet in her room. And some wrappers were in the trash.
Once I was sure she wasn’t on the brink of a diabetic coma, I rebuked her a bit, talking about why we limit sugar. She’s the kind of kid for whom disappointment and embarrassment are reasonably punishing. Parenting her is not the same as parenting my middle child, who doesn’t give a…a darn if you are disappointed, at least not most of the time.
A few weeks later, I was visiting my significant other’s mom. We were discussing bees, and I mentioned that Selah has already been stung by five bees, while I’ve only been stung once, at the age of 33. Selah is absolutely petrified of bees now, no matter how much I try to tell her that it’s best to stay calm around them.
“Maybe she is a little too sweet,” Lisa suggested, and after a beat, I remembered that she was there when I discovered the giant stash of incriminating evidence.
I laughed. “Bees sting little girls who eat too much candy!” I pretended to say to Selah.
But she’s onto something! I thought. I’ve been going about things all wrong!
“They are probably stinging you because of all that candy you ate.” In fact, why not,
“I hear bees sting little girls who don’t listen to their mothers.”
“They’re probably stinging you because of your messy room.”
“You’d better brush your hair or the bees will come sting you!”
The possibilities are endless! This could be the beginning of a whole new era for us! All of this “creating a safe and trusting relationship” and “establishing a foundation of communication” nonsense has gotten me nowhere. It’s time for coercion and scare tactics! Messy room and candy stealing no more!
So. What will bees punish your child for?