Meet my daughter’s bedroom. Apparently most teenage girls are as messy as this. Except the tidy ones, and I understand that they do exist.
Now, I’m untidy by nature, and I really don’t expect to live in a museum. I know it takes effort and time to cultivate the habits of organisation and self-discipline which are, in my view, essential for successful adult life. If my daughter would like to live in this sort of squalor in her no-doubt perfect future life, it is up to her. I suspect, however, that she will not be sharing her life with anyone, as who would want to share a home with this sort of person?
It seems to me that if you are as busy with school and co-curricular activities as E undoubtedly is, then it’s all the more important to know the exact location of, say, your school food card or your Oyster Zip card; that English essay you worked on for hours or a clean pair of knickers.
Yes, yes. Before you ask, I have told her again and again and explained very reasonably (and also using a less reasonable tone) how important it is to have a sensibly tidy bedroom. Not least because our cleaning lady comes in every two weeks and it is not her job to clear up the mess created by others. That’s a reasonable principle generally, I find: you make the mess, it’s up to you to tidy it up.
There are three factors that upset me most:
1) The clarinet. The clarinet is a good model and cost us a lot of money. It’s expensive to service and maintain too. Relatives of woodwind players will know that often there are fewer than three suitable reeds out of a box of 12 that costs over £20. Even the suitable reeds will last only a few weeks, if we’re lucky. In case you don’t know about clarinets: they are precision-engineered and one little key bent out of place, one tiny hole knocked and uncovered will mean that the note will be wrong or squeak. That’s quite important in, say, a Grade 8 clarinet exam, two days before which I last found the clarinet, out of its carefully-engineered case, not on its tailor-made stand, lying on the floor by her bed, partially hidden by some clothes just waiting for a careless footfall to come and break it. And now it’s happened again and it’s been lying there for the whole of Christmas week, despite her assurances of how much she loves her clarinet and how lovingly she polished the silverwork before her exam.
2) The clothes. I spend hours a week washing, drying, ironing her clothes and hanging them up, only for them to meet their fate discarded on her bedroom floor, still on their hangers, interspersed with dirty underwear, make-up smeared cotton wool pads and Costa coffee cups.
3) The cups and plates. Found dirty by the half-dozen, stuffed into the vanity cupboard underneath her wash basin or, worse, stuffed into her tights drawer. The room stinks.
She knows that all of these things are forbidden. She knows the rules and chooses to break them. If you have ever had a normal teenager, by which I mean not a tidy one, you will recognise this situation. I’m told that girls are actually worse than boys. Having had both, I’m not sure.
I’m a great believer in people being made to face the consequences of their actions. I do not belong to the “Let’s draw a line under this and move on, my children are my best friends,” school of parenting. It doesn’t work in the wide world out there and appeals to the manipulativeness of teenagers.
I refuse to tolerate brattishness or lies. E is, therefore, indefinitely grounded with immediate effect until she can show me that she has changed her habits and behaviour permanently and realises just how lucky she is. We shall check her room every night.