From the editor
Sunday, August 01, 2004
Your Naboo fighter jet is under my foot :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
All I want is a clear path. Just a way to get to his bed. My younger boy is a dear, sweet sentimental soul who finds comfort in having his stuff around him. His stuff, its packaging, the receipts and the bags the stuff came in.
We have discussed what I expect: His bed needs to be made, dirty clothes in the hamper and no garbage in the room. Everything, I tell him, has a place. He agrees. It's just he believes the place is the middle of the floor.
I tell myself if he controls his room, he will feel empowered, and this is a great parenting goal. The boy will feel some control over the decisions he is making with his life. He will know when he makes a decision, he lives with the ramifications-or rather amidst them.
It will be an important lesson-kind of a metaphor for the balance we must all find in our own lives as we move forward. Even if you can't move anywhere in that room.
I suppress the lectures. I work hard to be Easy Going Mom. Unflappable. I laugh at my little Oscar Madison. And as long as he can find things in the room, it's OK. I know the basic lesson it took me so long to learn: My dear son is a different person than I am. He is very bright and resourceful but he thinks in a different way. So, it just may be that where I see a mess, he sees structure.
I think of Harlan Draeger, a wonderful man and a brilliant reporter, who I had the pleasure to work with for years. In two afternoons of going through City Council files, Draeger taught me more about government than anyone. But this guy had a pile of papers on his desk with a name-Mount Draeger. Anyone looking at it would have said, this is a mess. The Chicago Fire Department said just that during one inspection.
But if you asked Draeger, "Harlan, do you have the 1968 election returns from the 47th Ward?" He would stand up, turn toward the pile, dip his head down, look over the rim of his glasses and after a few moments of thinking, he would reach in and pull out a piece of paper-the 1968 presidential election returns for the 47th Ward.
So, I want to allow for the Draeger factor. Maybe my dear son is a budding Draeger. I can't think of anything that would make me more proud.
This thought gives me great solace, most of the time. But sometimes I can't cope since I am not cut from that cloth. And normally, my breaking point comes at night-you know, the time when you want to be creating wonderful warm rituals and a lifetime of bedtime memories.
"Mom, will you come cuddle with me?"
"Yes, my sweet boy, I'll be right there. Where are you?"
"I'm here, Mom. Next to the 16 stuffed animals I won at the last three school fun fairs, under the collection of 27 Beanie Babies that I outgrew but can't give away, behind the pile of 12 outdated computer games that I haven't played for three years and under the seven pillows I've had since birth. Don't ya know me, Mammy, it's your sonny boy?"
"Zach, you sound funny. Are you OK, honey?"
"That wasn't me, Mom. I rolled over and hit my CD player-the one with 'The Jazz Singer' on it. Where are you Mom?"
"I'm behind the reading chair, dear. The one with your 12 T-shirts, four pairs of shorts, snow pants, six pairs of boxers, under the paper bag you brought home from school in June with the stuff from your locker. Do you see me waving?"
"I see your hand, Mom. It's peeking out under the solar system mobile, which is missing half the planets and right below the light fixture Dad has yet to fix."
"Mom, what's wrong? I can't see your hand anymore. MOM, ARE YOU THERE?"
"I'm OK, sweetie. I'm on the floor, with your LEGO Star War cruisers-in between your republican gun ship and the all-terrain tactical enforcer. There's a storm trooper embedded in my foot."
"Mom, you hate the word embedded."
"That's a different usage, dear."
"Mom, you didn't break the Naboo fighter jet plane, did you?"
"Mom?! MOM? Is the cruiser OK?"
"THAT'S IT. EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING on the floor will be in a garbage bag by tomorrow noon."
This is when a miracle occurs.
Enter the older boy. "Mom, calm down. I'll help him clean his room." This is not without a price, mind you. But, still, the older boy promises he will persuade his brother to minimalize. He promises 80 percent reduction in stuff. And I believe.
Both my younger son and I are dazzled.
Miracles do happen, don't they? I thought my older boy was a teenager, deep into his own world-only around for his own gain. I am evil.
When I arrive home the next night, there is a yell from the second floor. "Mom, come quick! Look at my room, Mom! It's all clean and I know where everything is! Even the closet, Mom. Isn't this wonderful? Mom, are you there?"
"I'm on my way, dear. I'm on the stairs. I can't see your room through the hall. There's a pile of 35 books, 17 board games with missing pieces and... OUCH."
"Mom, is that another embedded trooper?"