I was livid. I was able to refrain from doing anything that would merit a visit from CPS, but I did unplug the the TV and confiscate the phone and her computer. All of these things are distractions and I thought by removing them she'd be able to focus on accomplishing her task.
Like I said, that was two weeks ago. Two. Weeks. The child has now been without television, without the computer, without talking to her friends on the phone or setting foot outside this house for anything other than regularly scheduled family activities such as school and church for two weeks. And has she made a dent in the wasteland upstairs? No. It turns out, she does not need TV, computer or phone to distract her. Those things are just easy. Now she has turned to much more creative outlets.
One afternoon, she was particularly quiet and I just knew she was really making progress. When she came downstairs beaming with pride I felt sure it was to announce that her room was spotless. Instead, it was to show me the Native American inspired dress she'd fashioned for her American Girl doll out of fabric scraps she found in the craft closet. They were doing a group project at school on the Jumano Indians and since she couldn't do research on the compter, she decided to contribute by demonstrating traditional clothing. However, I don't think the Jumanos really wore green satin dresses and shawls woven with silver thread, unless of course Scarlett O'Hara was of Jumano descent. In fact, she'd done such a good job on the dress that I bought her some muslin and let her recreate it in a more reasonable material so she could take it to school for the group presentation.
What else has she done to occupy her time? Play the piano. A lot. She's played through old books. She's learned new songs. She's taught herself songs by ear. She's made up her own tunes. In fact, instead of struggling to get her to practice, I've actually had to say, "That's enough for now. No, you can not play any more songs!"
And perhaps the best thing that's come from her "incarceration", is that she's finally discovered reading can be fun. I've worried about her because, although she's an excellent reader, she doesn't like to do it. She never finishes a book and it is like pulling teeth to get her to do her required reading homework. (On second thought, she actually LIKES pulling teeth so that analogy is inaccurate.) However, without the Wizards of Waverly Place mesmerizing her into a catatonic Disney daze, she has been reading a lot. Last night I finally had to say, "Hallie, it is so late. You must stop reading and go to bed." So this morning, she jumped up bright and early in order to finish her book before school. She finished a book! A chapter book. With 186 pages. And she's decided to start a book club with some of her friends at school. Will wonders never cease?
Herein lies the dilemma. I feel like a bad parent because I know that two weeks of being grounded is unreasonable. I didn't set the time, I just told her that she's grounded until her room is clean. Which it still is not. But the things she is doing are far more profitable, in my opinion, than a tidy room. I'm tempted to go and clean the room myself, while she is at school, which in and of itself will be quite a punishment. She trembles at the thought of my cleaning techniques. When I'm finished, she can't help but keep a clean room because there is nothing left with which to make a mess. But then, will she fall back into her old ways of excessive TV/computer/chattering on the phone? I'd almost overlook a dirty room in order to avoid that. Almost.
There has to be a place between "mush for brains" and a "toxic dump". What a happy place that would be.