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.