Twelve is mostly nonplussed most of the time. She habitually wears a jaded air (because after all, if you were the smartest person in the world, you too would want to express how unimpressed you are by anything else) but the other day I got to be a superhero for about three whole minutes.
I'd been trying to buy a bookcase for Twelve's room for months, because she doesn't have one and because bedrooms should contain bookshelves. Craigslist, thrift shops, the weirdly-overpriced-yet-boring consignment place down the street: Twelve vetoed every single possibility. As a general rule, I do not press issues like this with Twelve. If she doesn't like it, I don't buy it: She's a very good shopper and I trust that if she doesn't like a t-shirt now, she's not going to like it any more after I've forced her to own it. And, while I find it utterly inexplicable that her books lived in a dresser drawer, I do understand that this is not an actual problem.
We were out sewing machine hunting and stopped at the grungiest thrift shop on the route. I halfheartedly pointed at a very ordinary came-in-a-box black bookcase, entirely expecting Twelve to instantly dismiss it, and she actually said she liked it! Amused but wanting to stay cool, I asked if she wanted a nearby little black folding table to replace my little wooden folding table as her nightstand, and she went for that as well.
After bustling around to get the dang thing into the trunk and bungee-corded down, we drove off, discussing the bedroom rearrangement that would be happening when we got home. Twelve loves this sort of thing. Blah blah blah de blah blah blah ... I'm just trying to keep up, until she starts in on wanting to switch beds again.
Twelve used to sleep in my childhood bed: Twin size, creaky springs under the mattress, cast iron headboard and footer - very much like the hospital beds in Downton Abbey, in fact. After a former roommate moved out a couple of years ago, R and I surprised Twelve by giving her the very nice queen size bed that the roommate left behind. All was well until recently, when Twelve decided that the old bed would give her more bedroom space and lobbied to switch the beds back.
I have no interest whatsoever in playing musical beds.
Twelve's room is plenty big for the queen size bed, the spare room downstairs is teensy, and the staircase is low-ceiling-ed, twisty, and treacherous. Moving beds around is a dumb idea, and I'm not going to do it.
"But what if I get R to help me?" says Twelve, and as I try in vain to think of a reason why the beds shouldn't be switched, I know what's coming: "You know you don't have a logical reason," says she, and she's right, so I pull out my trump card. Laughing, I tell Twelve that she's right but that I still get to veto the bed switching plan, and the conversation moves on.
Once we get home, the furniture rearrangement begins. She lets me try the bookshelf in the place I think it should go, and of course she's right, it looks terrible there. As we're maneuvering it into the place she wants to try, I ask if she wants me to reinforce the back panel a bit.
"How?" she asks. It's one of those cardboard backs where you can see the fold lines.
"With staples, I think," and I go hunt down the staple gun.
Sure enough, after a few staples, the unit does seem sturdier, and the backing attached more smoothly. Twelve is impressed! I am gratified by this! Twelve is more and more capable every week, it seems, and thinking about it later I realized that there really are fewer and fewer opportunities for her to be impressed by anything I do: Going to college? Boring. Getting jobs? Tedious. Turning yards of cloth into garments? Business as usual. Being a landlady: A total hassle. Sometimes I guess it takes a staple gun and a reasonably steady hand to impress a twelve year old.
Then, I mentioned offhandedly that she could paint her desk black to match the bookshelf and end table. According to the notation on the back, we painted it white in 2005.
Twelve lights up.
The next day on our walk to the gym, we stopped at the neighborhood hardware store and picked out a quart of water-based black paint and a paintbrush. We found the giant roll of plastic that was originally intended as R's greenhouse cover and cut a piece to fit under the desk. I taught Twelve how to pry the lid off a paint can. Admonishing repeatedly that she better not get paint anywhere but on the desk, I left her to it.
She did a great job.
Bookcase: $10. Nightstand: $3. Quart of black paint: $8.79. Paintbrush: $1.99. Seventeen staple gun staples: Maybe seven cents. Impressing a twelve-year-old with your mad DIY skillz: Priceless.