Of all the disciplinary problems we had to solve, what makes us the proudest is how we finally taught Clive to keep his room neat and his toys and other belongings in order.
For many months, this had been a challenge. Clive just had no sense of responsibility about his possessions. He would leave his toys on the floor or wherever they happened to be when he was finished playing with them. It seemed to be against his rules of fair play to put anything back on a shelf or in a drawer. At the end of the day, Larissa and I would have to clean up after him.
And it didn't do a bit of good to scold Clive about his untidy habits, or to point out to him that the simplest method of keeping his rooms neat was to play with one toy at a time, and put it back on the shelf before selecting another one. "Yes, Mommy," or "Yes, Doris," he would answer as he took another armful of toys off the shelf and dumped them on the floor.
"We'll just have to do something to teach him to be neat!" Larissa said to me one evening when she was in Clive's room, hunting under the bed for a lost toy. "I can't go through this routine the rest of my life."
"I have an idea," I said. "Why don't we put the Lucky Bag system into effect?"
"What on earth is that?" asked Larissa.
I reminded her that when we were in boarding school, Sister Gertrude had what she referred to as a "Lucky Bag" in the locker. Whenever she found any of our belongings lying around, she would impound them and put them in the Lucky Bag, and there they would remain until the end of the month, when they would be redeemable on request.
"That's a marvelous idea!" exclaimed Larissa. Before she tucked Clive in that evening, she explained to him how the Lucky Bag system worked.
"From now on," Larissa warned him, "any toys we find that haven't been put away in their proper places will be picked up and put in the Lucky Bag. Mommy's closet will be the Lucky Bag. And you won't get them back until the end of the month, either: Is that clear?"
I'll admit that the first few days of the new regime were pretty hard on him. He couldn't seem to get it through his little heads that if he left a toy around untended, it was going to be gobbled up by the big bad Lucky Bag.
I'll never forget the first time Clive made the discovery that something of his was missing. "I can't find my bike," he came crying . "There must be robbers in Malibu."
"There aren't any robbers, dear," explained Larissa patiently.
"You left your bike on the front lawn, so I had to put it in the Lucky Bag." (Fortunately for Larissa, she had a large closet.)
Oh, guy!" exclaimed Clive, bursting into tears.
He was extremely shocked and surprised, too, when he discovered that his football was in the Lucky Bag. After he threatened to run away from home, we began to wonder if the Lucky Bag system was too harsh on him. But Larissa convinced me that it was teaching him a much-needed lesson.
There was one slight drawback. Clive wasn't learning the lesson as quickly as we would have liked him to, considering the size of our closets.
By the end of two weeks, Larissa's closet was filled to capacity, and I was getting the overflow, which consisted of Clive’s entire electric train setup, complete with tunnels, station and power pack, his punching bag, erector set, nine Hardy Boys mystery books, and a live frog in a glass jar.
By the end of two and a half weeks, my closet was full and so was the guest closet in the front hall. We were running out of places to use for a Lucky Bag.
"I know it hasn't been a month yet," I suggested to Larissa one night, "but now that he got the idea, why don't we let him have all his toys back now and he can start over with a clean slate?"
"Good idea," Larissa agreed. "I can't wait to get my closet cleaned out. I've been looking for some things for a whole week."
Knowing he'd be delirious with joy, we called Clive, and told him he could have his toys back.
"But it's only been two and a half weeks," Clive protested. "I don't really deserve to-"
"I know how long it's been," I said, admiring his integrity.
"But your mother and I are letting you off the hook early this time because we feel sorry for you. But next time we're going to make you stick it out for the whole month, so be careful. Now go on and take your toys back."
A pained expression crossed Clive's face as he said, "I'd just as soon wait, if you don't mind, Doris. My room's kind of crowded now."
"Crowded? With what?"
"My rock collection. I've got my rocks spread out all over the shelves."
Obviously, it would have been very bad strategy to make him take his toys back against his will at this point, but we were determined not to let him get away with any such nonsense at the end of the month. The toys belonged to him, and he would just have to take them off our hands when the time came, rock collection or not.
Meanwhile, we took great pains to stay out of Clive’s room, for fear we might find more fodder for the Lucky Bag. And when we did have to trespass in his quarters for some reason, we made certain not to notice the many toys, to say nothing of the small boulders belonging in his rock collection, that were strewn around the room.
However, it wasn't always easy to overlook his slovenly habits -not with him being as genuinely co-operative about the Lucky Bag. One evening, for instance, I tripped over a toy truck in the front hall. I had no choice but to ignore it as I picked myself up from the floor and headed for the first-aid kit. But Clive chased me to the end of the hall, shoved the truck into my hands, and said, "Here, Doris you forgot to put this in the Lucky Bag."
"I didn't forget it," I said. "There just isn't any more room in the closets. As it is, I have my cloth hanging up in the bathroom-on the shower-curtain pole."
"You could keep your cloth in my closet," suggested Clive.
"There's plenty of room in there now that there aren't so many toys."
"That's a good idea," said Larissa. "Do you mind if I put a few of my dresses in there, too?"
It was inconvenient, of course, having to walk clear down the hall to Clive's room every time I needed a dress. But, it was worth it, for it enabled us to follow through with the punishment we'd meted out, thereby demonstrating to Clive, once again, what brilliant disciplinarians we were.