My Teenage Daughter’s Room

Sophie Room 1 © Tara Cousineau

This is my 15 year olds daughter’s room on a typical day of the week.

I told her I took photos of it for “evidence.”  Mommmm, she grumbled.  Then she forgot
about it as she chirped about her midterm exams, which one was easy and which one she is so sure she failed.  Ladi-ladi-da.

I watch her mouth moving but can’t hear her. I still have her room on my mind. It is worth driving home a point about her total irresponsibility as a living member of the household when she is in this total flaked out phase in her teen life? Where clearly the neural networks have yet not fully developed when it comes to organization?

You see she had some extra time on her hands this week given her exam schedule— some early dismissals or late starts. She coulda tidied her room a bit.

But no.  She’s perfectly content to live in squalor.

Squalor, it is.  My limit on my patience, I‘ve told her more than once, is when she could be serving meals to the mice that live in the walls and in the seams of the dirt basement in our 250 year old New England home.  The critters have frequented our premises, especially during a deep freeze like the one we are having now.

Sophie Room 2 © Tara Cousineau

It was such a week of testing my tolerance. I found two un-eaten brown lunch bags in her trash, and one in her backpack, and another in the den.  Clearly, the specimens were in various states of decomposition. I concluded that she might ditch at least one lunch a week that her father painstakingly makes at about 6:10 every morning.

So discovering the old, moldy, stinky lunches and four quarters in the trash was it for me. I’m of German stock.  I believe I carry a diluted strain of an OCD genetic marker, plus the endless training during my childhood with my German mother. My sister and I could not even think about leaving the house on a Saturday to play in the neighborhood if our rooms weren’t spotless. That meant dusting every surface—every knickknack, book binder, and our glass menageries. It also included washing the linen and hanging the sheets on the line no matter what the temperature—a reprieve there, at every two weeks. We had to hand wash and dry the dishes and if there was a pet, like a turtle or hamster, the cage got cleaned. It also meant taking turns scrubbing the tub and toilet bowl. There was no discussion about it.

Not only that, the regular laundry was only only once a week. We had to use one towel each. If jeans got dirty, oh well.  And they did get dirty because we played outside every single day, usually in the woods. We were not to waste water, soap, or leisure time. God forbid a dollar was found in the trash.

Do I bother to share this bit of “well, when I was a kid” history with my girls? No. Well, ok, sometimes.

I tell Sophie that she clearly has the “pile” gene from her dad.  I try to minimize going into his home office, too, because the feng shui is so… chaotic. Mounds of papers, work folders, old bills, a few guitars, and foot pedals populate his “space.” Neither of them has adopted my daily practice of tidy office, clear mind. Fortunately for me, my younger daughter is a neat nick and balances things out a bit.

On occasion Sophie shows some acknowledgement of the situation, some tenuous thread of conscientiousness. “Mom, I know my room is a
mess. I’ll clean it up after [soccer practice/the boys basketball game/Pretty Little Liars].”  Or a text: Don’t go in my room!

My bottom line: I avoid her room Monday though Friday and during PMS, but expect that if she wants to socialize on weekends her room must
be clean. This is because I want to feel relaxed in our home. And if my mother comes to visit—about twice a year—I hire cleaners. It’s a mental health investment.

I figure Sophie keeps up her room on weekends about 50-65% of the time. I realize my standards are leagues higher than hers, and can only
hope she will be more mindful when she has a college roommate.

News-mouse-tears_22908 © National GeographicHere’s the thing. She’s got four more years under our care. I don’t want her room to be an emotional battleground when other issues are sure to challenge our parental limits.

I figure when that one hungry mouse scurries across her room, there won’t be anything that will need to be said.

I almost can’t wait for that to happen.


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