HOM Teen finally tackles the task of cleaning out his bedroom

A teenager's flooris where you keep everything

King Features Syndicate

We were halfway through the school holidays when I snapped. I had begged, pleaded and, I'm ashamed to admit, even tried to bribe my 15-year-old son to clean out his room. Headed for the airport on a wet Monday morning for a two-day trip to New York, my mood was glum. I stood in the entrance of his bedroom and surveyed the horrors of a teenage boy's room. Posters clung from single pushpins; a stinking half-empty yogurt container was growing penicillin; holes in the wall grew bigger every day from the constant poking of pencils in them.

If you do not have teenage sons you might think this is a horrendous way to live, but I can assure you it's pretty normal. The floor to a teenager is the place you keep everything. Why? Because you can see it all, of course.

Curtains are for wiping your hands on, and friends seem to think it's OK to write rude notes to each other on the walls. Anyway, I lost it. "When I get home I want this room to be completely cleaned out," I screamed.


Kids always seem to know when they have finally pushed too far and you're at the breaking point. Two days later when I called home before boarding my plane, a chirpy voice on the other end of the phone said: "Hi, mom. Well, I did it -- I have cleaned out my room."

Filled with a mother's love for a boy who is really not so bad --- wonderful, in fact -- I told him how proud I was.

"Just one thing though: What do I do with my mattress?"

The journey home seemed to take forever, and my worst suspicions became a reality as the taxi turned the corner on my street. Number 23 had his old armchair on their front lawn, number 33 had a familiar bookcase still covered in stickers, and beside our garbage bin was his bed and old desk in a hundred pieces. He had cleaned out his room.

Calls of apology were first made to the neighbors. Some gladly accepted his hand-me-downs for their kids, while others were not quite so gracious. Next, side by side, we surveyed the damage. My emotions ran from furious to uplifted as he explained that he had waited years to design his own room, and that is what he wanted to do. And he did just that.

Like most members of the male specious, he called a woman for help. And during the next two weeks, he and his girlfriend, Hadley, spent every waking moment barricaded behind his closed door. They surfaced only for questions and eventually for money. I gave them a budget of $150 dollars, and the family waited and watched.

First the planning stage. They found an old roll of wallpaper and pinned a length on the wall, backside out. Here they drew up plans, tried out color schemes with wax crayons and calculated their spending. This was very encouraging.

Then the work began. Holes and cracks were filled with plaster. Tears fell as the plaster ran down the walls. They reread the mixing instructions and began again, this time with success. They seemed to be constantly hopping on and off their bikes as they raced to buy materials.


I was dying to offer my advice and some good ideas, but that was not to be. I was witnessing a rite of passage that is becoming increasingly popular. Teens have brilliant ideas and want to see them through. They learn by doing, and they are never held back for fear of making a mistake. In another column, you'll read about the unpredictable and awesome unveiling.

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