Is that so difficult? What is there about those three little words that’s so incredibly incomprehensible? All I know is that, based on what I witness around the house, teens these days are oblivious to the concept.
Where are the scissors? I’ll ask. They’re supposed to be on the bottom shelf of the cereal cabinet, but often, when I need them, they’ve disappeared. The first place I look for them is daughter Karlyn’s room (for that matter – I might as well cut to the chase – whenever some communally-used item goes missing, the first place I check is her room because the chances are outstandingly good that the last person to have used it is her).
From the time she was little we tried to impress upon her the importance – not to mention the convenience – of returning things to where they belong. As antiquated as the concept is, “a place for every thing and every thing in its place,” works really well, not only for ease of re-locating, but also for its effect on reducing stress.
I take pride in the fact that I can find my fingernail clippers in the dark. They’re always in the front of the top left drawer of my bureau. Always. Why? Because that’s where I put them when I’m done using them. My belts have their own hooks in the clothes closet. My keys hang on the hook on the hutch just inside the front door. My wallet goes in the ceramic mug on my bureau. My Day-Timer goes on the headboard of our bed as part of my evening routine, because I never know when I might remember something during the night and will need to make a note of it. I could go on, as I’m sure you can imagine.
A few years ago I attended a workshop that included the benefits of this kind of organization. I could have led it. However, until then, I hadn’t realized that having these kinds of routines also conserves energy. Once a routine is entrenched in our daily activities, it happens automatically. We don’t have to exert brain power trying to remember what to do when. When I get up in the morning, I go through my routine almost like a zombie (in this case, a good thing), which assures me that I’m doing every daily thing I need to do.
So, why can’t my daughter do the same thing? I’m not even talking about establishing a routine of her daily activities. That would take some discipline, which she has demonstrated she lacks altogether. But if she could simply put things where they belong when she’s finished using them, it would make life around the house so much easier and pleasant.
Why is it that she has to leave food wrappers on the furniture instead of putting them in the trash? Why can’t she keep track of the “blankie” she’s had since infancy (and which she has already said unequivocally she would save before Evelyn or me in the event of a fire)? Same with her phone. We recently had the equivalent of a nuclear crisis when she couldn’t find it. She fell apart with all the accompanying crying, yelling, etc., until one of us finally came up with it. If she either kept it on her person or put it in a place she designated for it, this kind of thing would not happen.
I’ve beaten this dead horse in previous blogs, but here I go again. One age-old parenting technique claims that children learn by example. I propose that that technique is unadulterated bullshit. Evelyn and I have shown life-examples ever since Karlyn came into our home: hanging up our coats, making our bed, cleaning up after ourselves, and the list goes on ad infinitum. There’s an element in that technique that is not acknowledged, and that’s the child’s willingness to learn. If you have a child who has no interest in emulating her parents’ habits, then all the examples in the universe will roll off of her like the proverbial water off a duck’s back. The end result: total frustration on the part of the parents.
A few months ago, Karlyn couldn’t find her car keys. She had dropped them who-knows-where in the house and, after a search that would have rivaled a police dragnet, we finally found them. I don’t know why I even mentioned it, knowing her resistance to taking cues from me, but I reminded her that I had provided a hook on the hutch for her keys. If she would just hang the keys there as she was walking into the house, they would be there the next time she needed them, which would save her time and keep her from frustration.
She has actually started doing that now. Hey, it’s a start.