THE BLOG
11/11/2013 11:55 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why My Daughter's Messy Room Says More About Me Than It Does About Her

As always, there's the shock and awe.

Cheez-its crumbled on the carpet. Lip gloss dribbled on the dresser. A bed that seems to have slept a crazed prisoner. And the clothes. Both clean and worn, strewn everywhere, crammed everywhere, from floor to ceiling fan.

I know this is not what The Who sang about decades ago, but to me this is the real teenage wasteland. And it doesn't faze my teenager a bit.

She'll disappear into her room for hours. Tweeting. Instagramming. YouTubing. She'll invite friends to hang with her in that maddening space, without a bit of embarrassment. (This from a girl who's mortified by most of what I say, and everything my husband does.)

And none of my nagging, pleading, reasoning, bribing, or privilege-retracting has an impact. She'll go inside to "clean" -- without the shovel or hefty bag the job requires -- and exit (many One Direction songs later) with the chaos completely intact.

I could tell myself it's our small NYC apartment that demands order. We can't afford to clutter. But that's not it. Her room has a door. I can close it. This is not a thoroughfare. And except for the occasional laundry drive-by, I'm not forced to face it.

So why does her mess make me crazy? (Or, crazier, as my kids would say.) I think, like so many parenting struggles, this one centers on control. "That room should be clean, because I say it should be clean." And every dropped lollipop stick, every spilled hair product, every inside-out sock lying forgotten on the floor reminds me of just how little control I really have.

Then, of course, there's the mother-daughter dilemma. Her brothers' room is far from tidy, my husband's home office is a wreck, but it's her I critique. Of the five of us, disorder bothers me most. I am the one who wakes up Saturday mornings ready to clean; spray bottles in my grip, an attack plan in my head. I like neat. It makes me feel... in control. Shouldn't my girl, my only daughter, my wing-woman join in this quest?

Apparently, my stuff isn't her stuff. And really, I wouldn't want it to be.

She has traits I wish I had. She speaks her mind. She takes chances. She loves her people with giddy abandon. She bounces when she's happy. She sings, on-key, wherever she is, without even realizing it. And she doesn't let disarray distract her.

These are the things I should be seeing. These are things to celebrate. After all, messy rooms come and go. My daughter will be off on her own before I'm ready. So the next time I'm closing the door to her room, I'll make an effort to open my eyes to the incredible girl who lives there. That, I can control.