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The battleground of a tween clean room
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"You need to clean your room."

I bet if I and every parent in a tri-state area had a dollar for every time we said this, we'd be rich.

This has been the phrase I have said on a near daily basis for the last two years.

Why just the last two years you ask?

Well, because it was two years ago since I said the famous line: "This is the last time I clean your room. Next time, you will have to do it."

And I meant it.

I had spent I don't know how many weekends cleaning my child's room.

This meant organizing probably a million Legos, several variations of Ninja Turtles, and close to a hundred Bakugans.

I am not even sure what some of these things were but I spent hours going through these things.

"Can I throw these away?" I would ask, to which a whimper and sometimes, a wail was the response.

Everything was put in its place and there was a place for everything.

This lasted maybe three months and then my child's room looked like a small tsunami had torn through it again.

Now, clothes and shoes litter the floor more than toys.

And I am not cleaning them up.

"I can't..." he will tell me.

He runs down his lists of reasons, the first being he just has no place to put things.

"If you cleaned out some of your stuff, you would."

"But, but...I need everything..."

I was not going to dispute what he needed or what needed to go where.

I just wanted to walk in my child's room without fear of bodily injury.

"You need to find a nicer t-shirt to wear," I told him one day as we were getting ready to go somewhere.

"I don't have anything nicer," he replied.

My head nearly exploded. This child has plenty of nice clothes.

"Yes, you do."

"I can't find it...."

"Maybe if you cleaned up your room, you could."

I was trying to tell all of this to my own Mama one day and my words fell on very unsympathetic ears.

"Do you remember your room? Do you remember how you'd pile your clothes in the floor - the hundreds and hundreds of dollars' worth of clothes I had to get you monthly and you'd pile them on your floor to dig through? It was like The Limited and Express exploded in there.

"Do you remember how your friend Valerie came over and was so distraught over how gross your room was, she cleaned it? Another child cleaned your room! And she wasn't even the only one to do it."

She continued, "There were times I couldn't even walk in your room. I don't even think the cat would try!"

"That was different," I said weakly. "I was a girl. Girls were supposed to have clothes. I have found a petrified chicken leg in Cole's room because he was saving it for later."

"At least he was thinking about food. You threw your retainer across the room one night in your sleep and I didn't find it until 15 years later."

That was a very isolated incident. I was choking in my sleep and had to save myself. I had no idea it would take over a decade and me moving out before the thing would ever be found again. Mama had wanted to send it to me so I could wear it since the braces evidently didn't correct my bottom teeth.

But when you are being reminded of your own transgressions from 30 years ago, you have to resort to some down and dirty tactics.

"Do you not remember when you tried to help him clean his room a few years ago? How did that go?" I demanded.

Mama fell silent, her barrage of my room horrors ceasing.


"He was not really happy with me," Mama said quietly.

"And why was that?"

"I put a bunch of stuff in bags - not to throw away, mind you - but to just store on his shelves. He did not like that."

"Why did you put stuff in bags?"

She didn't say anything. She didn't have to, really. She knew and I knew it was because even at the tender age of 5, my child had accumulated a mound of toys and clothes that he could get lost in for days.

"Mama? I'm waiting for your response."

She sniffed. "You know what I think about all this? I think I had to put up with you having a room that should have been declared a hazardous zone, you can put up with a little boy having a room that's never clean too."

And maybe that's what it was.

Maybe this battle of the tween unclean room was some kind of generational karma, paying me back for the fact my own floor was covered with clothes from 1980 until 1998.

Whatever it was, just like my own room back then, I wasn't gonna be the one to clean it up.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."