Path of Least Resistance

The last of the lilacs — on Boy Wonder’s window.


I spent the greater part of this afternoon helping Boy Wonder prepositionally clean his bedroom. Beneath his bed, inside his closet, on top of his computer hutch, under his rug—if it could be cleaned, we did it. He did the 3 weeks of laundry he’d neglected; which really means the 3 weeks of laundry I neglected to nag him to do. He’s 12. So, I feel like it’s a victory that he actually knows how to use the washer and dryer and most of his dirty clothes end up in a hamper, not under his bed. But if I don’t remind him, “Hey! It’s laundry day, get on it. And by on it, I mean now!” it’s not happening.  For the past three weeks I’ve been preoccupied and after seeing him in the same shirt for several days, I took a peek into his closet and declared today a Prepositional Cleaning Day. There’s a reason I buy underwear and socks by the dozens!

It’s amazing sifting through the things he keeps. The things he fishes out of the trash bag, “Hey! That’s tech. I can use that someday!” The mounds of rocks collected on all our vacations, the boxes of legos he still uses to test inventions, the shoe box full of packaging material, “I love that box, Mom! Those bubble sheets make me happy.” His interests have shifted with time, but he’s not ready to let the past go. Not just yet. Next to his 7 year old obsession with Scoobie Do mystery books are last year’s obsession, all the Harry Potter novels. And this year, it’s an alphabet soup of programming languages. Texts on Java, html, php and MySQL are stacked up with pages marked by crunchy papers with cryptic notes. He wrote the code for his first database last week. He just didn’t do his laundry.

In truth, I expect a unified theory of physics from him. Someday.  I just don’t expect him to keep his room clean. I know it’s the path of least resistance. I could yell, and rant, (and trust me, that is what it takes!) and watch him struggle with the process for six hours. Those days usually end with me declaring, “Well you better be one heck of an inventor and make lots of money, because finding a housekeeper willing to clean your mess doesn’t come cheap, Bubba!” Or, “NO WOMAN is ever going to marry you with a room like this. Think about that!” These are appeals that his 12 year old self is willing to ignore, no matter how right I might be.

But there is another option. One that requires less time and less yelling and less suffering. And sometimes, I have the clarity of mind to  choose it. This path, it is full of laughter and insight. Glimpses into this child of mine, this child who is growing up as quickly as he’s growing out of shoes and jeans and shirts. He is interesting and full of ideas. He is compassionate and loving and kind of funny, in a quirky irreverent way. It is a path full of gentle moments, sweet nagging and reminders—this is how you dust, remember to hang up that jacket, uh trash does not belong on your floor, I’m pretty sure I said only ONE water bottle in your room at a time, does Six look like ONE. . . gently, now. Gently.

“I forgot how much I like my room, Mom. I haven’t been this excited about it since I moved in. Thanks, Mom.”

As I placed the last of this year’s lilacs in his window, because he loves the smell of them as I do, I watch him. He’s already fast at work on something new—in a language I do not speak. 

10 Responses to “Path of Least Resistance”

  • IZ:

    You definitely had a GOOD mommy moment! And his room is smashing. I fear the prepositional cleaning days… I’ve been avoiding one in my office. No, I don’t have laundry. I have paper. Stacks of paper that cries to be scanned, filed, and /or shredded.

    Anyway, you did a good thing there with G. But then, your GOOD mommy moments far outshine any bad ones and are a great example of how to be in the world. Believe me, I try to ask myself, “What would SHE do…” and then I try to listen. Not always successfully -but I do try…

    Yeah, I don’t want to talk about my studio either. It’s really a SAD commentary on my cleaning skills at the moment. As for G. I’m trying very hard to both teach living skills and at the same time, remember he’s only 12. He makes it hard to remember that, at times—but he is just a kid. ~W

  • What a feeling of accomplishment–but if it’s anything like my kids, it won’t last long. I have learned the wisdom of keeping their bedroom doors closed.

  • Love, love, love the idea of prepositional cleaning. What a great idea. It’s almost enough to trick ME into cleaning . . . much less the kids. I might have to try that at school with my students.

  • Boy did that bring back memories, right down to the programming books that Sky seemed to collect. It was like pulling teeth to get him to part with anything, and here he is now living this totally non-materialistic lifestyle–who would have ever guessed?

    Sage is much more minimalistic. He also likes order. There are times when I wonder if we are related.

    I know you’re enjoying the feeling of accomplishment…definitely savor it while it lasts!


  • Treva:

    Aaaack! I was just thinking today about living in the moment. How can you really be an effective mom and be in the moment? Seems to me that when I try, it’s 2pm and no one has fixed lunch and it’s almost too late for naps…I can’t seem to be fully present and take care of the prep work to keep things moving smoothly. Tonight, at my house, the legos go from here to there, the stacks of recycling boxes are blocking doorways (built by walle), the bubble wrap has booby trapped the dining room, thousands of pygmy army troops are practicing maneuvers on every surface, and the progressive dinner fixed in the play kitchen has progressed upstairs and down. I feel like the chaos is out of control and I’m just grateful we made it through another day, albeit, ungracefully for me. Perhaps I will adopt your method, I want more memories of laughter, not yelling, this is going way too fast …job well done, Wende!


  • “I love that box, Mom! Those bubble sheets make me happy.” Yay!

    The path of least resistance is often strewn with grins – and bubble sheets. 😀


  • I love this Wende! Great reminder for me to nurture and appreciate the strong points and gently correct the weaknesses.

  • I just did some prepositional cleaning of my home before a friend came to visit. I’m not sure if I will ever invite that person back to stay…but, I did find myself falling in love with the neglected parts of my home once again…


  • P.S. Daniel is playing live on KEXP 90.3 Seattle tonight at 6pm. Dinner music?


  • Zoe:

    Can’t wait to teach my boy how to do laundry by him self… but I have a wile yet because he is only 1 and a half!!!!!

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