My 5-year-old daughter’s room was a mess, like, can’t even get through the door mess. It didn’t matter how many times I cleaned it. It would always look like a tornado had hit 5 minutes later. Her habit of changing clothes 5 times a day since she was 18 months old didn’t help either.
I had been trying all day to get her to help me clean her room. She would do what probably happens at your house too- Pick up one toy, start playing with it and forget that she was supposed to be helping. Or I would find a toy under all the mess that she hadn’t seen in a while and it would be like Christmas morning all over again. She was SO excited. I was SO frustrated.
In exasperation, I climbed the stairs, got a trash bag and headed back down the stairs.
”If you aren’t going to help pick up your room I shouted in frustration, I will pack up all these toys and give them to a child who doesn’t have any toys. There are a lot of children who don’t have any toys or a place to live.” I then followed with my generation’s version of “There are children starving in Africa”.
Furiously, I started throwing one toy after another into the bag. When I was done I walked over to where she was still playing.
“See these toys”, I said. “These are going to kids who don’t have any toys. You have too many because you won’t pick them up.”
She looked up at me with her cherubic face and wide eyes, picked up a few more toys and came over and handed them to me. “Here are some more toys”, she said. “The kids without any toys will need these too.”
I stood there speechless.
I was trying to punish my daughter and teach her an important lesson about being responsible and taking care of your things. She didn’t learn that lesson that day. Instead, she taught me that we should always share with others less fortunate. Things don’t really matter. That there are more important things in life than a clean room.
She is now 10, and occasionally her room is tornado free. She didn’t learn the lesson that I wanted her to that day but she is slowly learning it. As I reflect on the lessons of that day, I’m more inclined to believe there is a chance that she won’t ignore everything I am trying to teach her (though it certainly looks like it at times). Often learning needs to take place at their own time, space and place. In ways, we don’t always comprehend and cannot manufacture.