Living with the Tidy Gene

Living with the Tidy Gene

First off, I’ll make it clear that I’m not the one with the tidy gene. In fact, the very idea would have any friend of mine rolling around on my floor, at risk of being impaled by Lego corners. No, the reason I’m thinking about tidiness is because my son, now just coming up to 14, has discovered the delights of it. And this, for me, is a mixed blessing.

He’s been muttering for a couple of days about it being time to have a tidy up, and today, when we got back from swimming, he got stuck in. Much of the assorted crap littering the (floor, chairs, worktop, insert noun of choice) was actually his. He went around finding homes for it, and put the rest on my bed, to be dealt with a some unspecified point in the future. The sitting room is now lovely.

Am I complaining? Not really. This is an uplifting morality tale, surely, for anyone who’s ever wondered at what stage their kids will notice that stuff doesn’t put itself away. I come from a messy background. (In case my mum reads this, I should clarify: cluttered but hygienic). My ex came from a tidier place altogether and, after getting on for twenty years together, cited as one of his reasons for leaving that, ‘You’re just too messy.’

For some time after these words were thrown down, I really grasped the challenge with both hands. I would SHOW HIM WHO WAS MESSY! But it took ALL of my time, I was permanently exhausted and, I remembered, he also found reading in bed (and just reading, at times) to be an unacceptable waste of time. Me, I’d rather read than tidy. So the phase didn’t last. Cue relief from everyone.

But it’s left its mark, of course. As Son crouched on the floor, with books and DVD cases in both hands, he made that frustrated sound that at times precedes wide-scale throwing of objects. It was all too much! There was too much of it, and nowhere to put it all! And my reaction was this:

Liking things tidy is all very well, but there’s no need to be a dick about it.

Yeah, and I said it out loud.

Maybe a bit of projection going on there. He took it in good part, bless him. (Actually, I think he just ignored me). And later we had a hug and I said how nice it all looked. He wasn’t being a dick. He’s allowed to like things tidy. But I want him to understand that it’s not a badge of moral honour. If you want tidy, then tidy, but don’t make a deal out of it. I’ll carry on as I am, more or less tidy enough, and keep as my badge of honour the look on friends’ faces as they admit when I visit that ‘I knew it would be OK not to worry about the state of the place with you.’

And I’ll finish with an anecdote from my eldest, for no reason than because we find it funny.

‘You know when there’s a teabag on the floor and you keep stepping over it until eventually you forget it’s there? Except it’s not a teabag, it’s a dead mouse?’

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