Spring Closets, Part 1

It must be spring, because amidst all of the outside activities and the going outside and the going back outside comes… cleaning. Sort of. At a very low key. I have a pretty high tolerance for the debris level in our house at the moment, because while dealing with it—putting, say, the hockey bags away for the year—would give me a pleasant high and offer some lasting pleasure, it would have to come at the expense of other things , and right now my life is chockful of things I either love to do or have to do, and putting away hockey bags doesn’t quite get there.

I’m not sure where straightening the kids’ closet fits into that. I didn’t exactly clean them, but a fair amount of outgrown clothing was removed, and new clothes, particularly for Lily, were added. Winter clothes were moved to the back and everything just generally loosened up, and in the end, it still didn’t look so hot. Rory and Lily’s half of the closet (all of the kid clothes live in one large sort of double sized wall closet) looked like this:

Lily and Rory's half of the closet, take one.

That really doesn’t look like an improvement, does it? Lily didn’t think so, either. And apparently 6 is old enough to get the spring cleaning urge, because she took a look and came trotting downstairs. “Do you remember,” she asked, “that you said that when we switched out the winter clothes, we could move all of my clothes to the dresser and leave Rory’s in the closet? So we don’t have to share? Because it really gets crowded and in the morning? Rory? She lays on the bottom of the closet and rolls around so I can’t get my clothes! And then she laughs and says ha ha you can’t get your clothes!”

This is why if a wolf ever tries to eat Lily’s sheep, the sheep are doomed. Rory, who is rarely even awake when Lily gets dressed, does no such thing. And I did not remember. And this sounded like work. I had just done work. I was all done doing work. No, I said. I don’t remember (although I kind of did). And your clothes won’t all fit. (It’s a three-drawer changing table with a little hanging cabinet.)

“Yes,” said Lily, “yes they will! And I will do it!” Lily is finally starting to recognize that if I give a reason with a no, it probably isn’t really the reason.l The reason usually amounts to nothing more than “I don’t want to.”

I agreed that we could move the clothes if she would do it.

Lily moves the clothes.

I helped a little. And then I got into it, and it seemed like we could make it better, and so Rory ended up with this:

Rory's half of the closet, take two.

Yes, we like stripes.

Sam and Wyatt's half of the closet.

And I moved even more of Sam and Wyatt’s clothes to the back—they don’t need all of their long sleeves out even though it can get cold here in the summer—and that was better for them, too. (You’re looking through to Rory’s side, and there’s a mirror on the open door.)

And Lily ended up with this:

Lily's "closet."

We had the hanging rack. When the kids were younger, I used to put all their clothes out for the week in hanging sweater boxes (two of them are in Rory’s closet now), and they hung on this rack in the bathroom. I love repurposing stuff. I got a box for Sam’s shorts by using the sweater racks for Rory’s shorts, too. I had thought I needed to go shopping for a little closet organizing stuff today, but we had enough to make do.

What I really want to get to is my closet. But this has been hanging over me. It actually does have to be done, otherwise no one can put the clothes away. The closet obviously isn’t very big and it gets packed if I put, say, the new hand-me-downs in for Rory or Wyatt without pulling the stuff they’ve outgrown. It’s not a chore I mind, but it’s not one I look forward to, either, and I’m glad it’s done.

Lily is clearly ready for a space of her own. This every-body-shares-a-room thing (this is the guest room, with the clothes in it) has been fantastic in some ways, but both Lily and Rory, far more than Sam or Wyatt, want to be able to go put their own things in their own space. Rory I gave one of those little folding huts for Christmas. I’ve tried a couple of things for Lily–giving her a storage closet for a hideout and setting up a desk–but neither has taken. What I’m getting, loud and clear, is that she wants to have her own place to set up the way she wants. Time, I think, to make some changes.

KJSpring Closets, Part 1
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What I Do Better Now

Am I getting older? Wiser? More experienced? Well, yes to the first, certainly. And I’ve been working hard at making myself more the person I’d like to be in the past few years. It’s funny, but it started when I wrote this article (from Parenting) about my efforts not to be late all the time. I honestly didn’t like being late, but I wasn’t sure I could change. But writing about it made me take the effort seriously.

And I changed.

I still marvel at it. I honestly think that was the first time I ever set out in that way to do something differently myself and succeeded. I had always been late for everything. Always. I was “the person who was late for everything.” Late for school, late for rehearsals, late for meetings. Everything. That, of course, turned me into “the person who rushes all the time.” That sucked too, and once I had a few patience-sucking rugrats around, it all just became too much. I hated it. But it’s hard to change. Other people become invested in you as “the person who is late all the time” or whatever, too. They expect you to be late. They count on it. They prepare little speeches in their head to berate you with, and then we you are not late, they feel cheated. So they tease you with the words instead, and rub your achievement into your face and into the ground. This is one of the things that makes any kind of change hard.

But I did it. And I weathered all that teasing. And now, in many people’s minds, I don’t have to be that person any more. (Unfortunately in your parents’ minds, and possibly your spouses, you may well be stuck. I bet that makes weight loss hard.)

I am having a self-congratulatory moment, but not on that topic. I’m working to be more patient now, to have the kids do more of what I typically do for them, and to moderate my anger, or my faux-anger, for Rory especially. This afternoon featured a longish car ride (and we are very, very bad in the car), the return of the no-more-riding in other people’s cars rule (which is going to be very inconvenient next week, but so be it) and the loss of my patience. I told the kids to get their own stuff out of the car. Rory did, angrily, mutttering. And in doing so, she knocked my hat and all of Wyatt’s things out of the car and into the muddy slush all over the floor of the garage.

I was mildly angry. It wasn’t really a big deal. But the really annoying thing is that she just left them there, without saying anything. So I called her back, and “very angrily” pointed it out. She said sorry. I scolded. She said sorry. Then I called Wyatt out to pick up his stuff (which, after all, he left in the car) and came into the kitchen and…let it go. I told her what to do next time (apologize and pick the stuff up), helped everyone get a snack and just got on with it.

Why is this anything? Because I tend to hold onto even false anger. Especially if there’s no punishment, I want to rub people’s nose in their misdeeds, to really emphasize that I am angry that my favorite hat is now covered in muddy slush! even if I’m not. But I didn’t. Not only didn’t I, but I went out of my way to notice an effort by Rory to then do something to kind of make up for it (going back and hanging the stuff she’d dragged angrily into the house and left wadded up in her cubby). And an afternoon that could have been trashed was not.

But the real thing I think I do better now? Change. Yeah, I learned that I can be on time, and give up my anger (even the real stuff) and whatnot. But more importantly, I learned that even the things I’ve always done and the person I’ve always been (like the grumpy person in the morning, or the person who doesn’t do sports) can change. No matter how many people, including myself, expect me to remain the same.

KJWhat I Do Better Now
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