I often ask my daughter to clean her room. Her response is often to cry, get overwhelmed, or get distracted. I will not get into how crazy this all drives me in this particular blog.
While she is away for a few days, I think I will do us both a favor and just whirl in with a recycling bag and take care of business. You see, she is an artist. And her main art seems to be some sort of multimedia affair. There is much cutting, shredding, gluing, and taping, as well as coloring. Needless to say, this gets messy.
I go into her room, thinking I’ll mostly throw away a lot of scraps and broken things, like I generally always have. But after I whip the bag open in a businesslike fashion, roll up my figurative sleeves, and start picking things up, I realize that this is not the task I thought it was.
I pick up four sheets of paper taped together. Oh wait, there’s a three-dimensional Smurf house on one! This is the start of a neighborhood.
A little perplexed about where one should keep one’s Smurf village, I pick up a nice, straightforward piece of scratch paper. Uh-oh, this is an essay prompt for Selah’s club. “Draw a picture. Write your overall experience in our club.” I smile that she has used the phrase “overall experience.” She’s seven.
Evaluation Form or Essay Prompt
At first, I did not take Selah’s four-girl club very seriously. However, it has persisted now for months, and involves elaborate processing of paperwork, creation of flags with crests and mottoes on them…I am not going to mess with club business. Speaking of which, there is also a folder here labeled “Club Business.”
I move toward the two plastic juice containers that have been sitting on her dresser. Before I toss ’em, I notice there are beads inside. As I move to dump the beads, I notice this tiny scrap of paper:
- 1 star
- 2 tespoon water
- 1 pink lego
- 1 tiny pice of crayon
- 1 piece of brown shugr
She’ll notice if I throw away whatever this is.
Next up, a homemade envelope, with smeared writing on it. That can go. Except…wait…it said Calvin and Hobbes on it. And it is filled with comics she has drawn.
Calvin and Hobbes
She aspires to write/draw comics or graphic novels. You don’t throw away someone’s comics.
These scraps and piles are no longer just meaningless shards, or scribbled-on scratch paper. These are plans, schemes, and pieces of elaborate masterpieces. Like, stuff she would miss if I threw it away. My daughter is changing. Like her art and business papers, she has grown more complex.
I have to admit, I can’t clean this room. I guess I see why she has a hard time doing it too.
As I prepare to leave the room that had looked like a chaotic dungeon to me an hour ago, I think about the story, “The Things They Carried,” about what a group of men chose to carry with them in the Vietnam War. These things she values, they tell me about her. I am surprised by my feeling of having a glimpse into who my daughter is. I don’t even know when she had the time to make all this stuff. I don’t know what some of it means, or what she imagines it to be. How well do we really know our kids? They can be so small-scale, and she seems to be a bit of an in-her-head sort of person. But I hope that as we go, I can sometimes take a look at whatever the current version of her Smurf village project is. And I will never read what is in the Club Business folder, but I’m glad that I saw it exists.
More on Selah’s Calvin and Hobbes fixation: Sweeter than I Expected
More on remembering that my children have their own, sometimes secret, lives: Whodunnit?