I almost titled this the Taming of the Shrew…. Read on. You'll understand.
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Out of four, his is the messiest room in the house; he would even agree. He's content to let things fall as they may…and stay there. Dirty clothes ~ heck, clean clothes! ~ years' old rubber bands from when he had braces, papers from the 9th grade (he's a junior). His closet floor is stacked to the hem of hanging shirts, and there's no more room for anything that should live there. Like shoes, which he somewhat orderly lines along his wall behind the drum set.
Five pair, three (I come to find out) don't even fit anymore.
I'm busy, cleaning the rest of the house, readying for my sister and brother and their families. They aren't White Glovers, but I want them to feel comfortable and anticipated, and part of that is getting the house in Company Order. It's still in good shape from my manic Thanksgiving cleaning spree, so there's really not a whole lot to do.
Thomas tells me his room is clean, so I wander in to make sure. With a mom's laser precision, I point out the overflowing trash still in his can, his mirror that hasn't been Windexed since 2009, a few other things; not bad for him.
So he's really done this time, and when I notice the shoes still lined along the wall, I open his closet door to throw them inside. The towering avalanche of stuff smiles and winks at me.
So I begin without a word. My spirit is thrumming the familiar, "If you want anything done right you've got to do it yourself," and frankly I'm not interested in involving him. I'm the one who wants to know what's in there, obviously it doesn't bother him.
This time, rather than teaching him to fish, I'm feeding him for the day.
The rest of the house is waiting a good vacuuming, dusting and mopping, but I choose the Black Hole, unable to resist its attraction.
I start with hanging shirts. Easy enough; they're mostly on top.
But then I get to the real pile and the only option is to pull everything out to determine what stays and what goes.
Out comes four duffle bags–they take up so much room! One he uses, one he might, and two that show their age and he'll never use again. An old bookbag whose zippers lost their teeth. Football pads from when he played in 7th grade. Books from the 10th grade. Shorts that don't fit. Socks–the matches to the singles I keep finding! Empty boxes, three. Broken drumstick. A fiery Bozo wig.
With light at end of tunnel, I finally call him to identify clothes I'm uncertain about. He's furious when he discovers what I'm doing, his expression, pained. He thinks I'm judging him, but I'm not. This time, anyway.
"I'm not fussing, baby," I assure him. I think he senses this truth. "There are just a few things I'm not sure about."
"You're doing this NOW?!" he asks, and I explain I just wanted to move his shoes into his closet and one thing led to another. He knows I clean like this.
He's understandably defensive, anger boiling just under skin. Resignation hangs on his broad shoulders. But one by one we beginning sifting through the remaining pile, and he explains whether to keep, give away, throw out, or pass down to his brother.
We find a rhythm, a momentum. I am patient and kind.
Usually I'm a screamy shrew with a judger's dagger.
Small wonder he's tense; he's expecting my usual.
But then something unexpected happens. As I maintain a sense of calm and kindness, he begins to soften. His personality comes into play. We begin laughing…and having fun.
He's taking ownership.
The boy's gone fishing!
I put the two pair of shoes that still fit in his closet.
His pride and satisfaction fills the room.
And it slowly dawns on me….
catch more flies with honey than vinegar.