I Was Stifling My Kids' Personalities With My Neat Freak Ways

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I feel like my house has two different sections. There’s certain rooms where my obsessive nature shines through and everything must be in its place. This includes the living room, downstairs bathroom, kitchen, and my bedroom and bathroom.

Then, there’s the rest of the house. By that I mean my kids’ rooms and their bathroom.

I realized a few years ago how much I was stifling their personality by trying to control their rooms and the way they looked. Not to mention, I was slowly killing myself in the process.

Having everything in order and clean all the time is not a priority to my children. And the more I tried to impose that way of life on them, the more we fought and I realized how unimportant it really was.

Right now, my son is starting about one-million trees in his room. He saves strawberries, avocado pits, and transplants acorns from our yard.

This means we buy a lot of pots, we have bags of dirt piled in our garage, and there is always something on my windowsill drying out.

My daughter has two pet ducks and when people warned me how messy ducks really were, they weren’t kidding. Their turds are the size of gold balls and they like to hang out on the front porch. Mostly the rug. They blow their feathers all over the place and need lots of water which means there’s always a full kiddie pool somewhere in the yard or back deck. To say they splash water within a ten yard radius is not exaggeration.

My oldest likes to work on his truck and four wheeler. There are tools sprawled out all over the garage, lots of dirty rags, and car parts that are taking up space where a car should be parked in the garage.

Now, as a neat freak mother this all drives me bonkers. It’s hard for me to focus when I’m around a mess. It makes me anxious and physically uncomfortable.

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However, none of my kids inherited my clean-freak gene. Leaving things out in the open for all the world to see (like dirty clothes and their latest slime project) doesn’t bother them at all.

My daughter loves having her makeup spread out all over her makeup table instead of organizing it like I did when I was a teenager and they all feel it’s necessary to leave their bathroom essentials out.

I did have to draw the line at the hair she cut off her head and decided to tape on the back of her door because I’m pretty sure she did that to see how far she could push me. But there are things I have to force myself to look beyond because it’s important for kids to have self expression, autonomy, and not feel like they are walking on eggshells in their own room.

When I drove up to the house the other day, I saw my son transplanting the trees that were living in his room, in our backyard. I watched him water down cardboard he was hoarding, then break it into tiny pieces to put in his garden. Sure, I don’t love how his carpet is always sprinkled with potting soil but his room gets great afternoon light and he’s grown some amazing things in there.

Seeing him outside transplanting made all my anxiety worth it.

Those ducks have brought my daughter so much joy. She spends a lot of time with them and I truly believe they were the very thing that helped her get through COVID with less anxiety. She knows everything there is to know about ducks and I never have to ask her to go out and clean their house. She’s on top of it and they have given her a lot of responsibility and given her confidence because she’s had to figure a few things out while taking care of them — like how to get them to stop pooping on my front porch, for instance.

Having water, feathers, duck food, and slipping on a few poops in my front yard is something I can handle because she’s found a passion for taking care of animals since she’s had these ducks.

I love how knowledgeable my son is about fixing things with an engine. I mean, I wish he’d pick up his tools and oil-soaked rags but when there’s something wrong with our lawn mower or snow blower, he can usually figure it out.

But I also know that there is going to come a day in the near future when I don’t have to look at their messy rooms. I won’t drive home to see my son tinkering on his truck, or my youngest transplanting God knows what in the backyard.

I won’t have my daughters’ makeup spread all over the bathroom and beyond and I’ll be able to redecorate their rooms and have them be as tidy as I want them.

And knowing that makes me nauseous. More nauseous than the mess makes me, because it will mean they aren’t living here any longer and it will feel like three pieces of me are missing.

So, I will keep my mouth shut. I will let the anxious feeling wash over me when I see a trail of dirt or duck food or watermelon seeds and pulp drying on my countertop.

I want my kids to find their true passions in life and I can do this by relaxing a bit with how I like my house to look because honestly, their hobbies and loves in life are way more important than having bare surfaces and tidy piles.

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