I truly think my son might be the messiest kid alive. I know most kids are pretty messy. In my entire twenties, I worked as a full-time nanny, and I have three kids of my own now. Of all the kids I’ve ever known, only a handful of them are naturally neat and tidy. Keeping your environment clean and organized is learned behavior. I get that.
I know all kids are messy, but some kids are just on a whole ‘nother level when it comes to mess making. The universe gave me one of those.
This kid, man. He’s a lot.
View this post on Instagram
My first baby. There’s something about a firstborn. I love all my kids so deeply it can’t be measured, but this is the only one I ever got to love one on one without distractions. He taught me how to be a mom and he keeps teaching me every day. I adore this face. #firstborn #boymom #freckles
It’s not that he makes huge epic messes every day. He’s not that kid that will dump out a bag of flour to make a snow angel, or paint a mural with peanut butter or get into a paint can in the garage. His messes aren’t the kind that will make a good story later. I don’t get hilarious photos to put in his senior slideshow, and no video of his shenanigans will land us on Ellen. He’s not that mischievous kind of messy.
He’s not one for a big fantastical show. My kid is just incredibly disorganized and leaves a trail of tiny little messes everywhere he goes. I’m raising Hansel. Or Gretel. Whichever one left behind all those breadcrumbs. That one is my kid.
Need to find Henry? Follow the trail.
Go past the pile of LEGO bricks on the kitchen table, around the array of crayons and coloring books scattered across the living room, over the river, through the woods, and beyond the baskets of toys dumped completely upside down because he was looking for one specific thing.
You’ll find him, lying in the rubble in his bedroom, watching an episode of Wild Kratts, totally oblivious to the wreckage around him. We help him clean his room every night, and it still looks like a human hamster cage within an hour of him waking up. There’s just crap everywhere all the time. No matter how much we clean (and we do it as a team!) he just messes it up within minutes.
My seven-year-old is so messy that my four-year-old has created his own system of organization in their shared bedroom. He’s taken to using baskets, backpacks and jars to hold his favorite things. He carries them with him so he can always find them. He got fed up with his treasures getting sucked into his brother’s void, so he just started hoarding them like the Little Mermaid. “Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? Sure is! Now leave it alone so I can find it!”
It’s not just toys. My messy kid will leave his dirty clothes on the floor directly next to a waiting hamper. He’s one inch away when he apparently decides it’s not all that important to get them to their true destination. Close enough is fine by him.
It’s a miracle when he can find two matching shoes without fifteen minutes of hunting. I have told him seven million times to take them off and put them directly into his closet, but unless I’m standing right there with a reminder, it’s not happening. Those shoes are going to live wherever he takes them off his feet. That’s just how it is.
I got up early one morning this week to clean the bathrooms before the kids woke up. Within minutes of his eyes opening, he had spilled a glob of toothpaste on the clean counter. I had to ask him to come back and wipe it up. He didn’t even notice it until I pointed it out.
He gets so much water on the floor after his bath that I’m getting a little worried about my baseboards.
I swear, he never puts a dish in the sink on his own. Ever. If he makes himself a snack, there’s a zero percent chance he will clean up after himself. Literally zero. I have to remind him every darn time, no exceptions.
He tracks in mud every time he goes outside. I’ve given up on having clean floors. They’re clean on Saturday mornings. If you come over any other time, you’re going to miss it. Sorry not sorry. Cleaning up after this kid could be a full-time job, and I just don’t have it in me.
And just so you know, I have a mat to wipe our feet and a boot tray next to the door for shoes. I’m doing my best to set him up for success. But messy is in his DNA. The kid is just not tidy.
The thing is, he is very sweet and obedient. If I ask him to pick up his mess, he does it without complaint. He also has daily chores, and even though I have to remind him to do them, they always get done. He’s not lazy or defiant.
He’s just immune to the mess he’s making. It doesn’t faze him. He’s like Pigpen from Peanuts, only instead of dirt and flies, his cloud is made of toys and clothes and snack wrappers.
Confession: He gets it from his mama.
I know how his brain works because I was this kid. I remember spending the entire day trying to get my room clean as a kid, wondering why my parents even cared what my room looked like. The lack of order didn’t bother me one bit, and I was perfectly happy to dig through a mountain of crap to find what I was looking for.
Like my boy, I was smart and creative and free-spirited. I had to learn to clean up after myself, and I am neat now because I created that habit. I prefer a tidy home, and I don’t feel at ease in a mess anymore.
But I had to grow into that, and I know it’s the same way for my son.
He’s a really smart kid. He always has a new idea and wants to try them all the moment they occur to him. He’s busy all the time. His mind is amazing, and he never runs out of things to do.
That’s probably why stopping to clean up the last thing he did is not a priority for him. He’s onto his next adventure, and the peanut butter and jelly-covered knife on the kitchen table is out of sight and out of mind.
Usually, my human tornado goes to school. In case you’re wondering, he’s grubby as heck there, too. His teacher sent me a photo of his desk last fall because the mess was so impressive.
Now school has been canceled due to COVID-19, and he’s going to be home 24/7 for the foreseeable future.
Our house is not a palatial estate, so we don’t have room for all the little piles of crap he leaves behind. That nonsense adds up quick. This house can go from pristine to catastrophe in one afternoon on a regular day. Well, pristine is never happening at the moment, and neither are regular days. Our baseline at this point is “somewhat livable,” and it doesn’t take much to descend into full-blown chaos.
Older moms try to tell me that I’ll miss this later. False. I’ll always remember these beautiful years with fondness, but I think it’s fine that I feel no connection to my kid’s dirty dish that’s been chilling on the table for two hours after breakfast. I can appreciate the beautiful messes of childhood without having to get all precious about every single one of the really freaking annoying ones.
My sweet, smart boy can’t just carry on sprinkling his clutter like confetti all over this house. I have to teach my boy to be tidy, and since homeschool is already in session, it looks like my boy is about to get a crash course in home economics.