Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I freely admit to not being the most graceful of men. I wouldn’t say I was accident prone, per se, just clumsy and inept. Maybe it’s my size, but I don’t think so. Even as a kid I could never have been accused of being coordinated. Frankly, I consider it no small miracle that I can walk. Period. I’ll leave chewing gum to those more talented.

Saturday night, the Youngest Aardvark Child asked if she could watch the show I had taped for her on Friday night. I had to tape the show Friday because it’s marching season for the band and the YAC and Mrs. A were off to the game. It being an away game, they left before I got off work, so I just headed home for a night of solitude. Being the geeber child that she is (she IS mine, after all), one of her favorite shows is Numb3rs – where the math freaks (not that there’s anything WRONG with that…) manage every week to stop the bad guys by using their ginormous brains to calculate exactly how many tribbles could be contained on board the Enterprise and how many nanoseconds it would take to reach that capacity. Which naturally causes an argument whether or not to consider the impact to the reproduction rate of running a tachyon burst through the main dish while reversing the polarity of the shields to counter the effect of the deep space energy beast sucking the antimatter out of the warp drive, while Spock rampages out of control, deep in the throes of the Pon Farr - at which point the bad guy’s eyes have either glazed over so they are easily cuffed and carted off to jail, or they are begging to be shot to be put out of their misery. (And at this point, the true believers among you are scratching their chins, nodding and saying, “Yes. It just might work!)

Anyway, I had taped the show and she wanted to watch it on Saturday. Now, being a parent of a teenager, I have learned that the number of levers left to pull that actually will influence them grows smaller each passing day. Therefore, when presented with such a lever, it is imperative that it be used.

“If you will spend the next 20 minutes DILIGENTLY picking up in your room, you may watch the show.”

Yes, I am evil.

“Ok. But first I need to go to the bathroom.”

Ah. The old bathroom ploy. Always was a favorite of mine too. I can see the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The force is strong in this one…

“Ok. But your 20 minutes doesn’t start until after you get out.”

Your move, Tonto.

“I know.”

I love the smell of victory!

She spent the 20 minutes of picking up bringing one piece of paper out of her room at a time to put into the recycle stack.


Ok, maybe not victory but at least it was progress.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon.

“Dad, can I get online?”

“Well, how does your room look?”

Instant attitudinal reaction. Gee. I didn’t see THAT one coming. Much.

After some calm discussion (at least on my part) we reached a consensus that perhaps the best course of action would be for me to go examine said room to see if it was up to (down to?) an acceptable level of craptivity. The YAC, you see is a keeper of all things crap. Old McDonald’s toys, stuffed critters, scraps of paper, beads, gauntlets made out of duct tape, packaging from whatever has been opened, more paper, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, POGS, trinkets, doodads, gewgaws, school papers, musical instruments, rubber bands, books, wrappers, shoe laces, buttons, bows, jewelry, puzzles, games, church papers, cards, dolls, magazines, coloring books, drawings, sand art, posters, CDs, headphones, erasers, cut out comic strips, more random bits of paper…and then the clothes piled here, there and everywhere. “I didn’t hang that up because I was going to wear it again.” “I keep my boots there because I can’t find them if I put them in the closet.”

Anyway, we headed to her room to let me take a look around. You could tell that she had been working at picking up. There was definitely less clutter, and you could actually see some carpet in the middle of the room.

“What’s this?” I said, pointing to a half-dozen stacks of paper, some books, writing utensils, backpack and jacket laying on the floor just inside her room.

“That’s my school stuff. I’ll pack that up in the morning.”

“Oh. What’s this then?” I said, pointing to some flotsam on the floor by her bean bag chair (that she NEVER sits in, by the way – but heaven forbid we should bring up getting rid of it).

“That’s my music stuff.”

”Does it have to be there? Can’t it be stacked up into one neat pile?”

“No Dad. I know where everything is now. If I put it in one pile I’ll never be able to find anything.”

I have to tell you that the YAC is very much defined by her things. She has a sincere emotional attachment to them. If you’ve ever heard of the Five Love Languages, hers is the language of Gifts. She associates objects with feelings. Separating her from her objects is a very emotionally draining experience. That’s not to say that she’s completely materialistic or can’t share or give to others. When she gives you something, you’d better appreciate it because she has given you part of herself in the process - which explains why I still have some of the scraps of paper she gave to me years ago. You probably know someone like this.

“Could we at least agree to keep the small piles but arrange them neatly?” I asked.

“Dad. I’m an ARTIST!”

Oh, excuse me, mademoiselle artiste.

“I can see that you’ve done a lot of work in here, sweetie. But it still looks messy. And the thing that makes it look so messy is all the little piles strewn haphazardly about. I can’t tell the difference between your piles and a stack of papers thrown up in the air and landing where they will. Sometimes when I come in here I just want to kick up my feet like this,” as I started kicking my feet like I was moving through a pile of leaves. Of course, my feet were bare and my second kick made contact with her oboe case sitting on the floor. Naturally.

“I think I just broke my toe” I said, laughing at my clumsiness. Then the pain hit. “Okay” I said, no longer laughing, “I think I just broke my toe.”

But not wanting to lose any progress I had made, I went back to my point.

“Can we agree to have you at least make straight piles so that it looks like they’re not completely random?”

She reluctantly agreed. At which point I said she could, when she finished making neat piles, get on the internet.

I went to find some Advil.

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