I Thought My Kids Would Be Less Messy As They Got Older — I Was Wrong

Originally Published: 
Justin Paget/Getty

When my kids were small I remember I used to think (about 100 times a day), how glorious it would be when they could actually wash their hands and faces well and stop smearing their food all over the furniture. I’m here to tell you they are now teenagers and the smearing of food still happens. I just sat down to work and noticed there was yogurt on the arm on my chair.

I hated folding all the laundry and putting it away, so as soon as I thought they were capable, I passed off that chore to them. Now there are falling towers of unfolded laundry falling in my kids’ rooms because they’ve decided life is just easier if you wash and dry your clothes, then ball them up in a pile and set said piles in various places. The chair, the bed, the windowsill, on top of the dresser, right in front of the door so you can’t open it. It really doesn’t matter where it lands, as long as it doesn’t involve folding and putting it away, they are good.

I just wiped a booger off the bathroom wall and it was huge. Then, I threw away a glass that was growing a greenish substance in the bottom. After that, I Googled “How to get rust stains out of the tub.”

I have kids who are old enough to work, drive, and pay taxes.

Yes, they are old enough to clean up after themselves and they do — they put their laundry in the laundry basket and know how to wipe down the countertops after they make a sandwich — but they don’t do it well, and those messes have tripled in size.

Not only that, but the messes are different now that they are older. Like the tuna fish that my son can never seem to rinse out of the damn bowl. He has some every night as a snack and that shit dries into fish-scented cement.

Their aim isn’t any better than it was when they were potty training, and now their pee is super-sized.

There aren’t dirty handprints on anything, but my daughter, who loves charcoal masks and purple shampoo, will leave a trail of black and purple all over the house. I’m still not sure how some got on the fridge handle, but nothing surprises me anymore.

Oh, and those rust rings in the shower are from cans of shaving cream, and no — they don’t come off. You’d think they would after the hours my son’s spent in the shower (ahem) but something tells me they aren’t in there scrubbing those walls, if you know what I mean. I have the high water bill to prove it.

Instead of their rooms smelling like baby powder and fresh air, they all have a distinct stench I can’t place. (I don’t want to, either.) All I know is I ask them to keep their doors closed to contain the smell so I can forget about what might be growing — and, from the smell of things, rotting — under their beds.

And if you didn’t hear this PSA here’s another annoying teen-ism: They don’t really like sheets or made beds. No, they’d rather be free and sleep on a bare mattress and roll around in loose bedding.

They are also masters at cutting their own hair — on their head and other regions — so you should invest in a vacuum designed to pick up all the pet hair, even if you don’t have a pet. Instead of picking up toys from the bathroom floor, I vacuum up hair from various places of their body. And sometimes that trimming takes place in the living room when I’m not home. I’ve seen the evidence, but I refuse to ask.

The other day, I sliced my toe because I stepped on a pile of my son’s toenails that were in a neat pile on the rug. I probably needed stitches.

My house is peppered with nail polish and wax in places that leave me puzzled. Like the trim work in the living room and behind the sofa.

The recyclables are always overflowing because they live for their Vitamin Water and energy drinks.

And just because they know how to use a toilet brush to do away with their skid marks doesn’t mean they will do it. Like, ever.

So, I just wanted to let you know something: If you are looking forward to the time when your child can clean up after themselves and do things like pick up their toys and put their dishes in the dishwasher (they will do that if you make it a rule), they won’t be neater. They will leave messes in their wake that you only have nightmares about.

They can fuck up the inside of a fridge faster than three toddlers and don’t even get me started on the amount of dirt they track in with their big feet, even if they remove their shoes at the door. I literally don’t know how it happens, but I’ve been living in a sandbox since they all hit puberty.

The messes don’t get better — they get worse. I keep telling myself to just go with it because they essentially do what I ask them to do, they just kind of suck at it.

I’ve come to realize teenagers don’t see a lot of things their parents do (like the slip-n-slide my son left on the floor after “cleaning up” a spill) and I just wanted to mentally prepare you if you were hoping things would get neater around your house when your kids got older.

They won’t, they’ll get worse. You’ll have just as many breakdowns over it (or more) and you’ll think about lighting the house on fire a few times each month.

Just remember, one of these days it will be their own houses they have to keep clean. And seeing housekeeping karma in action will be pretty damn satisfying.

This article was originally published on