My daughter is a neat freak. Everything she owns, everything she does is tidy and organised – her writing, her clothes, her hair, her bedroom…
Living in the rented house, her bedroom is almost empty apart from a big pile of bin bags of stuff under her bed and a stack of cardboard boxes. She has virtually no possessions. Even her essential collection of hairbands and grips is in a little plastic bag. Yet she takes as much pride in this room as she ever did in her old room.
When she goes to bed at night, she has a routine. She puts her brush and hairbands away in the plastic bag and screws it tightly shut. Then she places it on the pile of boxes in lieu of a dressing table. She adjusts her curtains (old ones from my mum’s dining room because hers went missing) to the exact position she likes them, lines up her slippers neatly together in their usual place next to her shoes, positions her two teddies and adjusts their clothes and smoothes down her duvet and makes sure it gets right to the edges of her bed. Only then, can she get into bed and go to sleep.
I switched the bathroom light on and it didn’t come on. I tried again. Still nothing. So I tried the other lights. Nothing.
I knew what to do. I’m a woman of the world. I knew where the fuse box was and that I had to flick the switch marked ‘lighting’. So I did. Then I did it again. Then I did it and waited a bit longer before flicking it back. Then I flicked the big, red switch which turns everything off. Everything went off, but the lights didn’t come back on.
Then we went to watch Frozen (amazing film!) and forgot all about it. But it was dark when we got back and we couldn’t see a thing. So we had to go to my mum’s house to make our tea and eat it. My dad came back with me to flick the switches, but there was nothing happening. Between all our stuff we’d left there in the move and the Christmas presents, there wasn’t room for even one person to stay at mum’s. So, short of getting a B&B, we had to go back to the dark house and we had to sleep there.
As well as being a neat freak, my daughter is afraid of the dark. She sleeps with her bedroom door wide open and the hall light is always on. If someone accidentally turns it off, she will wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
But we brought back four lamps from my mum’s house (ours of course being lost in the move) which we would plug in around the house so every room would have a bit of light. Except that was when we discovered that most of the sockets were gone too. The only sockets that were working were in the kitchen and our bedroom.
My daughter was starting to cry and panic. She needed the torch. My son shouted at her because he needed the torch too. But she needed to sort her stuff out. Not even putting her hairbands and shoes neatly, which I would have let her off for, but she just needed to get some chocolates and little presents from school out of her room and put them away in the kitchen. Not exactly priority when we’ve got no light. But it’s her way of making sense of the world. She can’t control that it’s dark, but she can at least make it tidy.
There’s no way she would sleep in her room, even with a couple of lamps on in the kitchen, so I said she could sleep in with me and keep the lights on. She screwed her hairbands tightly into the plastic bag and found a new home for it, put her slippers neatly together next to the bed and folded her tights, skirt, Tshirt and jumper and put them on top of each other in a tidy pile.
She was back in control of the world. Only then could she go to sleep.