What Mom hasn’t stood in the doorway of their kid’s room rolling their eyes, threatening to ship them away, or simply throwing stuffed animals while mumbling under their breath?  Moms and clean room angst always run together.

Sit down, pour some tea, and let me tell you a story about what I learned about clean rooms from my 12-year-old ADHD son.

I decided on a Saturday to brave the depths of Lego madness and enter the land of lost socks and dishes from the Bush administration and help my son clean his room.  He certainly wasn’t excited about this deal but he humored me and actually pitched in with a decent effort.

For hours we sorted Legos into the plastic bins of organizational heaven that I had chosen just for him, because I love him.  Every ADHD mom scours The Container Store searching for clues to calm from the chaos. It’s a quest. A quest for answers and solutions and a fix for “their problem”.

Four hours later, with the sweeper cord wound, the bedding cleaned and smoothed, I laid on the bed with a ridiculously deep sigh and said, “Don’t you just LOVE this.”  His room gets this clean about as often as Macys runs their semi annual white sale. This was a moment to take in. I wasn’t really expecting a response from him, it was more of a rhetorical question. Except ………he answered.

“No Mom, I really don’t.”

What did he just say?

I was completely curious and intrigued.  I said, “O.K. I get that you don’t like to actually do the cleaning part, but don’t you like it when it’s done?”  And then it happened. I received another moment of enlightenment about his ADHD mind. This one and others have significantly shifted my perspective about what’s important in my relationship with my son.

He said, “No Mom, I really don’t.  I only do this because I know you like it. When it’s all put away in the drawers, you put my ideas away.”

I lay there on the bed, curious, embarrassed, shocked, and needing to know more.  What Mom puts away their kids ideas? That’s insane. That’s criminal.  So I dug in needing to know more.

“So let me get this straight, don’t you find it easier to build stuff when you know exactly where all the pieces are?  You know, little men in this drawer, long red strips here, square blue blocks here?  I thought you hated it when you couldn’t find a piece you wanted?”

With the calm profoundness of a scholar he said, “No, it’s not that way at all.  I get my best ideas when it’s all laying out and I see this piece of a building and then I stumble on this part of a helicopter and I think, wow, what if I put these things together. Then it gets me thinking about all kinds of things and I get excited and just want to build and build. When it’s in the drawers I don’t really have any ideas.”

At that moment, just like Roosevelt, I struck a new deal. I said, “Hey, how about you agree to scoop it all up onto your big table and get everything off the floor once a week so we can run the sweeper and we’ll call it good.”

His eyes lit up, “Really?” Yes, really. No kid of mine has his brilliance locked up in a plastic box.

He’s not wrong, he’s just different. Let the building continue and the ideas flow.