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Jim Walker: Shrine on, shrine on child-less room

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: August 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Our headline is a takeoff on the lyrics from the early-1900s song “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” and is used to introduce today’s topic, which is the parental reaction to the empty nest syndrome produced when children go away to college.

Specifically, we are talking about whether to shrine ... Or not to shrine — whether to hermetically seal your college-bound kid’s room, exactly as he left it, in the hope he will one day come back and adore you for your sentiment. Or to, instead, turn his room into a gym and his possessions into cash.

An examination of this subject was inspired by an advertisement I read last week with the header of “Kid leaving for college sale.” Books, clothes, furniture, sporting equipment, posters, trophies, artwork and even, I believe, a little ceramic slab with a tiny handprint in it were offered for sale, and one can only surmise that the parents were subscribing to the old “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy.

Either that or the word “college” in the header was a euphemism used because “Kid leaving for prison sale” didn’t have the same jolly ring to it.

In any case, the advertiser seemed to desire to dispose of all reminders of this child’s, well, childhood.

Now, putting yourself in the advertiser’s position, this might be your thought process:

The little ne’er-do-well scammed himself into MIT and brags that he’ll turn out sooo much better than you did, right? Well, let him start ASAP.

“Bye. See ya. Don’t let the screen door hit you in the butt. Send a postcard now and then. We’ll let you know where we are.”

Or are you a shriner?

The day after your progeny drives away in the beater car he fashioned from the nice one you bought him a year ago, do you lovingly wash and fold away the rancid laundry he left behind, then cover everything in his room with bed sheets so it will remain dust-free until he visits at Thanksgiving, if he visits at Thanksgiving?

In fact, the only reason you will enter his room between now and then is to water and feed that little starter plant he received as a bonus gift when he purchased his medical marijuana card.

Is that you?

Or maybe you don’t cover everything with sheets. Instead, you visit his room regularly to “dust.” And while dusting, you fondle his soccer trophies and sob your way through his photo albums. You caress each spelling quiz with a gold star on it, kiss his sixth-grade graduation photo, and shed a tear on the restraining order he received for his interest in Suzie-down-the-street.

And when you are done, you place everything back exactly as you found it, sigh nostalgically and walk out singing “Thank God for Kids.”

Oh, I hope not.

If everything in his bedroom isn’t in storage, sold, or dropped off at Goodwill by the time he sleeps through his first class at college, you should be ashamed of yourself — and you deserve his inevitable moving back in.

Nay, my friend. Anything he didn’t take with him to the dorm should be liquidated or expunged. You could, politely, warn him this will happen before he leaves, or you could email him later about that gang of crazed skunks that broke into his room in search of old Cheez-Its — so, you know, everything had to go.

The end result will be the same. He will thank you when he drops out of school to backpack across Europe because everything he owns will, literally, be on his back.

What a freeing and empowering experience, right?

And meanwhile, selling his drum set, flat-screen and Xbox might help you get to Europe. Beyond that, emptying and sterilizing his bedroom provides you with a place to warehouse your new Chia Pet business.

It’s up to you, my friend. Will you shrine on? Or will you take back what is rightfully yours and empower your child and yourself in the process?

Of course, Walker offers this advice from his usual “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy ... because, well, it’s a good thing he didn’t sell his daughter’s old twin bed. It fits his current accommodations perfectly. Comment at  or at


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