Should you let your child decorate his own room if he’s four and a half years old? I don’t know. Do I let my four and a half year old son decorate his own room? Yes. Are there more pressing issues like ISIS and Ebola that we could be discussing right now? Most certainly. But that’s probably not why you’re reading a moms blog at this exact moment.
Allow me to provide you with a mental and emotional break for the next two to forty-five minutes as you peruse my son’s decorating habits. (I don’t know how many kids you have yelling at you at any given time that they don’t like the way you displayed the food on their plates/ need you to find the safety scissors NO NOT THE GREEN ONES, ONLY THE RED ONES BECAUSE GREEN IS NOT THEIR FAVORITE COLOR TODAY; therefore, I don’t know how long it takes you to read.)
I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but my son shares my affinity for rearranging furniture at least once a week, and his repeated attempts to cover every open space on his floors and walls with color and trinkets is reminiscent of my childhood and college dorm rooms. I couldn’t stand the sight of blank walls, and my collections of key rings, Bass loafer curly shoelaces, bumper stickers, every photo I had ever been in, plus collectible figurines, ribbons, buttons, plaques, certificates, homecoming mums, stolen restaurant menus, Christmas lights, YOU NAME IT, decorated my rooms. Did I mention I would also decoupage anything with greater than a 4 inch surface area? My rooms looked like Mi Tierra on steroids.
After a lifetime of loving to live in brightly colored chaos, it seems nearly impossible to fathom that I now get very anxious and upset when my house is in disarray. But I do. I still like a dash of chaos here and there, but my brain and my nerves crave a visually clean and orderly space. I probably work too hard on making sure every counter is free of clutter and there’s nothing laying on the floor, but many times I can’t stop, and then I get frustrated in feeling like I’m trapped in a Groundhog Day of never ending housekeeping. I bring this feeling on myself, and I’m working on it, but in all honesty, some level of nonstop housekeeping is just the trademark of a home with more than one occupant. I’m sure the anxious feelings I get from clutter have something to do with feeling out of control and like I will never know the “ahhhhh” of relaxation that comes from surveying an entirely peaceful looking, clean home for just two minutes each month.
I’m sure I have turned into my mother.
She, too, probably wanted only to wake up in her home once a month and not see loads of unfolded laundry draped over the couch, toys scattered in each room, dustballs twirling down the hall, burnt cheese dried in the oven, unsorted mail piled in three locations, hard water stains (AGAIN) coating the toilet and shower, and no less than four pairs of her husband’s shoes sprinkled around like the world’s most obnoxious potpourri.
But I hope I am turning into my mother.
Because despite how much time she spent trying to keep the public viewing spaces of the house together (kitchen, living room and bathrooms), she always let us three kids have ownership of our own bedrooms. She let us create spaces (within reason) that nurtured our hobbies and interests and made us feel happy and safe.
As long as we made our beds, picked up our clothes and kept our rooms clean, these private spaces were our own. (That is also why she is very frustrated decades later that there are 8,000 pin holes in the walls and glow-in-the-dark stars that will have to be removed with the hammer of Thor, but those are small prices to pay for giving your children the gifts of ownership and freedom of expression, in my opinion.)
And while my own home may never maintain whatever arbitrary measures of cleanliness that my brain apparently craves in order for me to keep my blood pressure down, I am 100% on board with giving up control of my children’s rooms because I believe the benefits my kids will receive will far outweigh my temporary frustration with housekeeping.
Now, if I were a Pinterest mom, I would make a really cute chart outlining all the benefits of letting a preschooler decorate a room and it would be written in a fun font in the Pantone Color of 2014. My list would have words and phrases like motor skills, freedom, exercising creativity, establishing independence, imagination, ownership, input, personal reflection, confidence, and baby shower mustache party chevron straws. But I don’t think it’s all that serious. It all comes down to my kid getting genuinely excited about decorating his room. He loves it.
And I love when he calls me in to check out his latest design work because he is a kid, and therefore a total weirdo, and I will never be able to anticipate what I am about to walk in to when I enter his room. And this is one of the best free gifts I can give him.
His little sister is even nuttier, and I can’t imagine (and can’t wait) for what she will do to her room if she decides someday she’s interested in doing anything other than wrecking her brother’s room.
And though it will take me some time to be cool in accepting that my house may never visually calm my nerves, I can already tell the pleasure I get in seeing my kids happy in their personal spaces is helping me come around. If I didn’t have the chaos, I wouldn’t have the three other housemates that I deeply love, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the clean countertops in the world.