Breen: My hypothesis: It’s not teen laziness; it’s an experiment

Adam Breen

San Benito High School has laboratory facilities that help educate students about scientific theory and practice. Using beakers and Bunsen burners and microscopes, students augment their textbook and lecture learning with experiments designed to bring the lessons to life.
    While they may not realize it, many of them have created laboratories of their own – no doubt unintentionally. It’s called their bedrooms.
    In our house, the boys’ bedrooms are a living, breathing, stinky microcosm of the teenage existence: it’s a place to sleep and listen to music and do homework; it’s also a place to see how long it takes for fast food wrappers to disintegrate and to check the half-life of a half-eaten candy bar.
    My older son’s room this week was shockingly clean. He even called me in to take a look at it and to find out if I’d faint at the sight. I didn’t, because I knew this was nothing more than a fleeting condition. Soon enough I wouldn’t be able to tell whether the floor was carpeted with carpet or discarded sweatshirts.
    My wife and I understand the sanctity of a teen boy’s bedroom. They want their privacy and a place to get away from the world and that’s fine. That does not mean, however, that they should leave Subway sandwich wrappers on their desk beneath a single sock for six days.
    Since our older son’s room is near ours, we can’t help but see into it when we begin and end our days. A made bed is rarer than a lunar eclipse and an open closet reveals an organizational system that is neither organized nor systematic.
    Our younger son’s room is a bit neater than his brother’s, though to call it neat would be to call a teenage boy’s hamper lemony fresh.
His shelves hold baseballs and deodorant and an iPod charger. They also have an opened bag of sunflower seeds, a fishing reel and a fruit-punch packet. It’s like he was playing the “what three things would you bring to a desert island” game.
I’m OK with his minimalist decorating style, which includes a single mirror and taped-on banners from Fresno State, Chico State and the University of Kansas.
Our older son is more maximalist than minimalist. He’s got five posters, a Santa Clara baseball and basketball schedule, a picture of his girlfriend and some old street signs on his walls. As long as stuff isn’t on the floor, I guess we can’t complain.
Tacking a baseball bat receipt to the wall in case he needs to use his warranty makes some sense, but it’s not very decorative. The Hollister Bait & Tackle bumper sticker that he affixed to the wooden night stand is not my idea of decoration either, though if he ever needs the number for a place that offers “ammo/camo/gifts,” it’s right there.
We expect our sons to keep a relatively clean room. I was once a teenage boy and I know my room was rarely, if ever, spotless. Still, it’s not too much to mandate that fast food remnants be discarded before they become penicillin and clothes to be put in the hamper before they go out of style.
Adam Breen teaches newspaper and yearbook classes at San Benito High School and is a reporter for The Pinnacle. He is former editor of the Free Lance. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @AdamPBreen.


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