Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Diaspora in Reverse: One Mom's Trash is Her Twelve Year-Old's Treasure

Continuing with the sliver theme:  we are starting to see slivers of the floor in the Big Kid's room. This represents very real progress, because up until a day or so ago, there was a solid layer of debris in the Big Kid's room, stretching from door to bed. 

In contrast, Little Kid's room is totally organized, because Mom tackled that room.  Big Kid declares this system unfair, to which Mom responds:  

  1. Yes, I help the Little Kid, because he's seven, and we don't expect as much from him at seven as we do of the you at twelve.  Coincidentally, though, we expect exactly as much of the Little Kid at seven as we did of you when YOU were seven.  So stop saying that things are unfair.
  2. Although, when you get right down to it, life is unfair, so now would be a good time to accept that and move on.
  3. Also, it's not true that we don't expect as much of the Little Kid as we do you.  The Little Kid actually earns a little bit more credit with us.  Here's the other reason that I am willing to clean the Little Kid's room:  he's a bit of a slob, but he's not a pack rat.  His stuff falls back into place far more naturally, because it's easily categorized:  dinosaurs.  Hot Wheels cars.  DC Comics action figures.  Non-DC Comics action figures.  Little Kid (AKA The Performer) is all about play-acting, so it's a matter of organizing props and set pieces.
Big Kid (AKA The Engineer) is all about creating things out of other things.  But he also has a bit of the performer in him.  Here's what I have to deal with in the Big Kid's room:
  • Eighteen trillion kinds of building sets.  LEGOs. LEGO Mindstorms.  Uberstix. Knex.
  • Building set projects, in various stages of completion.
  • Model kits.
  • Completed models.  Including every Pinewood Derby and Space Derby entry he has ever submitted, with corresponding trophies.
  • Trash.  Seriously, just trash.  Bits and pieces of stuff that he thinks he could turn into something some day.
  • Things built out of trash.  (Example:  a functioning Camera Obscura, made out of a cardboard box that once upon a time housed a NatGeo science toy of some sort.  The toy is long gone, but the box remains.)
  • AN ENTIRE RUBBERMAID TOTE'S WORTH OF PAPER AIRPLANES.  All of them representing a refinement of the prior design scheme.
  • Reams and reams of origami paper.  Most of it mangled, but I am informed that the mangled paper IS STILL USEFUL.
  • An entire library of books on paper-folding.
  • Magic props.  It's danged difficult to tell what is a magic prop and what isn't, but I'm getting better at it.  Segments of rope:  probably a magic prop (particularly if they go rigid if you jerk 'em just right - oh, wait, I'm not supposed to explain how that works).  Little plastic cups that look like they could nest in other plastic cups.  Foam balls that you can squish into little plastic cups.  Silk scarves that I don't recognize as coming out of my accessory pile. 
And on and on.  Seriously.  I'm leaving out the Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and the Bakugan cards, and the umpteen computer print-outs with cheat codes and programming tips.

This is not a function of him being a tween.  I swear that it has been like this, essentially, since the kid was born.  (Once upon a time, there were Thomas trains in the mix, and BRIO.  Those were our early building sets.  He didn't care one whit about the characters or their back stories and never actually interacted with them.  Thomas and his friends were useful only as crash-test dummies.  It was all about the layout.  Once the layout was built, and tested, the trains went back in their carrier.  Then he would ask me to photograph his latest creation, and then he would tear it down and start over.)

So, here's the real reason why I will choose to organize the Little Kid's room over the Big Kid's room:

In the Little Kid's room, I can tell what's trash.  IT'S ACTUALLY TRASH.  The Little Kid consistently forgets the rule about not eating in his bedroom.  And the Little Kid eats, A LOT.  We think he has a slow leak somewhere.  So, in his room, you find granola bar wrappers, and segments of fruit roll-up covered with a fine layer of pet hair.  It's gross, but it's easily recognizable as stuff that needs to be thrown away.

Everything in the Big Kid's room looks like trash to the naked eye - but, to the owner, it's almost entirely treasure.

So Big Kid, who wants a cell phone with a full data plan, and an electric guitar, and a whole bunch of other grown-up stuff, has been advised to put his money where his mouth is and unpack and organize his stuff like an actual adult. This process has been thwarted by the fact that the Big Kid will soon be thirteen.  He sleeps.  A lot.  He is, basically, a narcoleptic.  When he is awake, he is complaining about how tired he is, or actually in the process of nodding off.  The only time that he is fully awake, and engaged, is around midnight.  Spouse thinks that this can all be controlled.  I'm not convinced.  I have a fairly good idea that twelve-turning-thirteen was around the time that my parents reversed a long-standing "no TV" position and wheeled an old set into my room.  (Seriously, it was on a plug-ugly TV cart, and it had rabbit ears.  This was the early eighties, and the TV was on loan from the seventies.)  They plugged it in and said, "Watch TV in the middle of the night.  Knock yourself out.  JUST PLEASE LET US SLEEP."  (This is the reason why I am a Trekkie, by the way:  the only show that came in clearly at that late hour was Star Trek:  The Original Series in reruns.)

Anyway.  The other day, I actually witnessed the Big Kid slump over a Blackmon Mooring carton and start to snore.  Again, I do not think it's artifice.  I think that this is our life until he leaves for college.

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