Putting children to work as housekeepers

“You really have to clean your room every day or else it gets ridiculous,” said my daughter.

Yep, read that again: said my daughter.

Fern was talking to a friend in the car, gloriously oblivious to my presence as only four-year olds can be oblivious. Like when kids hide their face in a couch cushion and think that means you can’t see them, they also think that when you’re driving, you’re not listening to them.

And in that state, my four-year old described how she tries to keep her room tidy. Her friend always has a clean room, but then again, her mom is way more, um, formidable than I could ever muster.

So maybe Fern was blowing smoke, but I have another theory: in her soul, she’s really a neat freak, but it’s human nature to hide our true selves from our parents, at all expense.

Or at least that’s kid human nature. I follow a BBC radio soap opera (doesn’t everyone?) and one of the storylines at the moment revolves around the teen girl who wants to go on holiday with her older boyfriend. Her stodgy parents don’t let her — she’s got exams coming up, and he’s older — and she gives them hell about it. But to everyone else she meets she’s completely reasonable, explaining how she really needed to study and how missing him makes her love even stronger.

Only her parents get the “you’ll-never-understand-me” and “you-suck-romaine-lettuce” treatment.

Just like me if I make Fern clean her room.

And if I catch Fern just right, she loves to do chores with me. Anything involving water, obviously, is a huge game, but the room takes serious threat, or reward, or bribe, or else (and this is usually the case) I just clean it. To myself, I pretend I’m modeling good behavior, which my favorite clutter blog tells me is very important.

And overhearing that conversation made me realize: maybe some of what I’m saying about taming clutter, about keeping one’s environment tidy, about being responsible for your OWN! DRATTED! SHOES! — maybe some of that’s actually getting across.

Not that she’d ever admit that to me! Friends are for talking to — daddies are for aggravating.