My kids are professional den builders. By that I mean they spend a great portion of their time constructing their own little schools, houses, hospitals and concert halls out of pillows, cushions, sheets and anything else they can find. About once a week our apartment is transformed (read trashed) into a living, sprawling, chaotic den that never seems to be finished. They rarely sit or do anything in the dens, the point seems to be to build (read turn tidy apartment upside down) and discuss (read argue) and create (read drive me crazy).
The most recent one occupied a frenzied three hours of their time and as I ear wigged outside the door of my son's bedroom (read standing dithering about whether or not to make them start to tidy it before bed), I heard my daughter ask him if he wanted to come over to her den to have some dinner and watch a movie. I skulked away with a smile on my face, treasuring having overheard a part of their play talk. Their den building is such an important part of their relationship and their development. After school, they rarely ask to watch TV, instead a pact is usually made in the lift on the way up to play dens together. I can see that the den playing allows them to try out new personalities, to try out new adult like behaviours and to role play. It is a massively positive thing. So, why, oh, why won't the Control Freak Voices in my head leave me to let them get on with it?
With every slam of the linen cupboard door, Clean Voice says, "You'll have to wash those sheets again'. With every request for sticky tape, Tidy voice says "You'll have to spend hours picking little bits of tape off the wooden floor". With every cushion that disappears off the sofa and down the corridor, Neat voice says "Put it back!!". The den this morning, just about pushed me over the edge. They had spent most of yesterday building it and I had pushed the bad voices to the back of my head and let them keep it over night. In the cold light of day, however, when I needed to get them out the door in a hurry, the chaos behind the door was almost giving me palpitations. I did not have the time to sort it (it would take at least an hour) and I had no time to nag them to sort it (which would take at least 2 hours, lots of threats, raised voices, wailing etc).
The reality is that I just cannot live in chaos. Back in the UK I would let them leave their dens in the garden, summer house or playroom. The luxury of space meant that I could close the door and let their den of creativity live to see another day. But here in Manhattan, I just can't. Every bit of space is accounted for, filled and there is no margin for error. The voices in my head have just got too loud. Before moving here I thought a perfect day of shopping would be heading to 5th Avenue, the reality is that it is the The Container Store that now has me practically weak at the knees. They bring out a new space saving device and I'm stampeding up 6th Ave.
So, something has to give. Either the kids get less creative or I tell the Control Freak Voices to pack their bags, there's no place for them here in Manhattan. My daughter knocks on the door and asks me if I want to come and see her new den. It's a writing den, a place where we can blog together, she says. As I pull back the sheet she has her laptop ready and a cushion for each of us. The Control Freak Voices flights are booked.
yours, from below a sheet