Helping a daughter decorate, while staying out of the doghouse

"I want dogs on my walls."

"How about a garden theme?"

"I want dogs on my blanket."

"How about a simple stripe?"

"I want dogs on my rug."

"How about a nice neutral?"

When my 10-year-old daughter and I set out to redecorate her bedroom, I envisioned fun-filled trips to the fabric and paint stores, and enthusiastic banter as we worked side by side.

Instead, we ventured into a lesson in teamwork and compromise.

She wanted a bedroom that boldly said this was hers and nobody else's. I wanted something that wouldn't make me cringe each time I walked in her room, and something she would like two years from now.

Given my daughter's strong convictions, we set out in search of dogs. We found wallpaper borders that featured cartoon dogs, hunting dogs, and cutesy dogs - nothing that satisfied both of us.

My daughter begrudgingly agreed to consider a different theme if I could convince her there was a better one than dogs. I picked out bolts of deep blue cotton fabric with yellow stars and a coordinating yellow-and-white-striped fabric. "How about a celestial theme with glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling?" I asked with hope.

"Like this?" she responded and pulled out glittery silver stars and swirls that screamed "Dallas Cowboys." I put my fabric back on the shelf.

"How about soft lace curtains in an ivory-colored room?" I suggested. But before I could tell her just how we'd use it, she was shaking her head no.

I could not sway her.

Enter two mediators. Back to the fabric stores we trekked with my talented cousin, who could turn any room into a decorating dream. She and my daughter talked in clandestine huddles and then came back to me with ideas.

This mediator not only had a talent for decorating, but also for knowing my daughter's tastes far better than I. (Of course, she didn't have to walk into that bedroom each day either.) We talked, we pleaded, we joked, but to no avail.

Enter the second mediator - my mother. Through cajoling and prodding, she was able to help us reach common ground - a lime-green, aqua, and teal plaid with a touch of navy. Her most convincing argument for me was, "Remember when I let you decorate your room. I hated those colors you picked." And, as I recall, I loved them. It was my favorite room.

Now that we'd chosen the fabric, we were on to our next adventure - paint. I agreed to purchase small cans of paint of every color in the fabric to add touches of color around the room, but was stunned when my daughter wanted to imitate the deep aqua from the fabric on all four walls.

"How about plain old white walls?" I suggested.

"Boring, Mom. I want this color," she said.

"How about this color?" I offered, pointing to the most sedate color in the fabric.

My daughter held her ground. I turned to Mediator One, who was nodding. I turned to Mediator Two, who was smiling ever so slightly. "I painted a wall vivid raspberry once," she said.

I agreed to deep-aqua walls, but asked to tone the color down slightly. She agreed. Whew!

Our final point of discussion: dogs. With all of us growing weary from months of talks, points, and counterpoints, this went fairly quickly.

Taking an idea from a decorating magazine, we decided to blow up 5-by-7-inch photos of our two dogs, frame them, and hang them from navy-blue ribbons on a horizontal pole above her bed. The idea was a hit with all of us.

Now that negotiations were complete, all that was left was the work!

Beth L. Voigt lives in Minnesota with her husband and daughters. Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting experiences, send an e-mail to, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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