This child. Is not a child any longer. Shh… don’t tell his mother.


This child is driving me crazy. By all accounts, anyone as disorganized as he is should be failing out of college. A point I make. Often.  He is excelling, which is annoying. And who does that? Succeeds at Calculus and Physics straight out of the gate? Annoying.

But it all came to a head on Monday morning. 1:30 AM to be exact. After a long weekend, he was “working” on a calculus problem he said was “due” the next day. Um, that he “forgot” about until he “remembered” at 12:45.

I stood in his pitiful room. Looked at all the mounds of clothes and papers and cat hair covered things and my head exploded.

So did my mouth.

It was not a good parenting moment.

And then I issued the ultimatum, “Your priorities are as follows: Calculus, Physics, German, and working for your father. If you are not doing those things, you should  address your room and your laundry.  If you have done all those things, then you can think about having a social life. But really, Calculus, Physics, German, and work.”

And you know what’s really annoying? It’s not that he’s slacking off school work. NO. It’s that he is OVER working. Turning in 15 page papers when 3 paragraphs would suffice. Formulating his own theorems on practice problems. Staying up into the wee hours of the night to talk on maths boards with other math obsessed people about his proofs.

And while he’s busy over achieving at his school work, everything else is being completely ignored. Including his health. He ended up with a nasty bug a few weeks ago, partly because he’s so run down.

I keep lamenting that there is plenty of time to do the things he needs to do and have a life, if he would only, only, ONLY please get organized.

I bought him a fabulous Apple back-pack. And loads of school supply crack. And I’m still trying to figure out how he can possibly be excelling when his binder looks like an overstuffed sausage casing.

So, at nearly 2 in the morning, I had had enough. And I said so. In ways I should not have. In ways that did more than make my point, in ways that only frustrated him further.

Needless to say, I felt pretty bad the next day. So much so, I took total pity on him and cleaned his room, organized his desk, and did all of his laundry.

You guilt clean your kid’s room, too. Right? And besides, fresh sheets always make it better, right?

To a point. But then, it was time to pick him up from school and the tension in the car was palpable. As we navigated our way home we made small talk — but you could tell, he was in no mood to forgive me for being frustrated. And I got that. While it would be great to say a quick “sorry” and count that as “done” — it’s not enough. Not by a long shot.

He came home, went straight  into his room, and then walked back into the kitchen, “Mom, I’m so sorry I was being so difficult yesterday–well, all weekend really. I know you’re disappointed, I am too. But, thank you for cleaning my room. I’m going to work on getting more organized.”

And that’s when I really apologized.

Repentance is more than a simple “sorry”: it requires action, not just words. And if your apology is words based, then it better be something specific. Something meaningful. I like to think that the quality of an apology should be in direct relationship to the harm that was caused. “Sorry” is what you say to the guy you inadvertently cut-off on the highway. “Sorry” won’t cut it when you’ve dropped an emotional bomb of words on someone. And don’t you even think about justifying your bad behavior. If you’re sorry, then… BE sorry. In word and deed.

There is nothing Geo hates more than cleaning his room:  nothing. So doing that chore for him was just a way to physically demonstrate that my words were not empty. Because, my kid is compassionate and easy going and forgives quickly. I needed him to know, that I understood that I’d gone too far– that there are consequences of saying hurtful things, that I was willing to do something real to demonstrate it.

Actions speak louder than words. But words, words harm in ways that are indelible. You cannot issue a quick “sorry” and think you’re free to move on your merry way. Not if you want the relationship to flourish. It’s probably the hardest lesson to learn as a parent: that when you are wrong, you owe it to your child to say so. And it doesn’t hurt to clean their room in the process.