My girl is snuggled up in her bed, sleeping soundly under her favorite Pottery Barn comforter. With four feathery pillows surrounding her head, a collection of treasured photos on her nightstand, and two beloved stuffed animals sitting nearby on a shelf. Looking over her. As they always have.
It’s her first night home from college after a long, challenging semester.
“I’m so happy to be home, Dad,” she said to me before we all turned in for the night. She looked so peaceful and content. Just like she used to when she was a little 4 year-old in a Cinderella nightgown, with the smell of toothpaste on her breath, ready to crawl under the covers.
“Sleep tight,” I smiled to her as I shut the door. And then I looked up to the ceiling and breathed a sign of relief realizing how close I just came to pulling a huge daddy blunder.
You see, a few hours before her return home, her bedroom looked nothing like the room she last left a few months ago. It’s become my spillover room. My junk room. I never quite got around to making her bed after I stripped the sheets from her last visit. Maybe that’s because a few boxes of Christmas decorations that I’ve been meaning to repack have been sitting on top of her mattress. Along with three bags of clothes ready to turn over to a charity. Some pants that need alterations have been draped over her desk. A suitcase that should go in the attic was stuffed under her desk. The light in the ceiling has been in need of a new bulb for two months now. I don’t really mind though. But I notice it every morning as I pull myself into the big open space in the middle of her room where I do my morning sit-ups, push-ups and assortment of other exercises — many with a jumbo exercise ball (which I gladly leave in the middle of her room 24/7).
I know she loves her room. But the truth is, I do, too.
It’s the one room in the house that I freely leave in a state of mess, shut the door, and forget about it. It’s my secret room.
Yes. I did say “my.”
And while I’ve been excited to see my daughter, it’s forced me to grapple with the condition of her bedroom over the last week. So I made her bed with freshly laundered sheets. I dusted. I replaced the light bulb in the ceiling fixture. But I convinced myself that the rest of my “stuff” would be fine if I just moved it over to the side of her room.
“She’ll understand,” I told myself. “Surely she won’t mind the boxes I’ve neatly piled off to the side. And she’ll probably love using my yoga mat and exercise ball.”
So for the last two days, her room looked like a combination of a catalog-perfect room for a princess and a neatly organized storage unit.
Two hours before her arrival, she sent me a text. “I’m so excited to sleep in my own room.”
That ignited a severe case of Daddy-Guilt. Which triggered a panic attack. That resulted in a flurry of box and junk relocation. All to my bedroom.
I was vacuuming the matted down carpeting in her bedroom — to hide the evidence — when she walked through the door.
And into her room.
Now mine is the room with the boxes. And the yoga mat. And the suitcase and the bags of clothes for charity. I hardly notice the jumbo exercise ball at the end of my bed.
Alright, the truth is I hate it. Every last box.
But not as much as love the feeling of knowing that my girl is snuggled up in her bed.