As I walk from my garage into the house after running errands, I see 12 pairs of shoes scattered down the garage steps. TWELVE. My pulse starts to quicken. My daughter’s white Crocs look tiny next to my son’s high tops, and I remind myself there will come a time when I walk through this door and all those shoes will be gone. So I should appreciate this scene in front of me. Right? I should be grateful for all these kid messes because one day they’ll be gone. RIGHT?!?
I move upstairs and walk down the hallway, trying not to peek in their (disastrous) rooms– something I used to do often to see what they were up to. I used to love looking at the stuffed animals they were snuggling before bed, and it was a joy to see their Lego creations spread all over the floor.
Then my kids got a bit older and made even bigger messes. They stopped listening to my reminders to clean up their shit. Their rooms have spiraled into hazmat zones as a result. And I’m still not sure how we got here.
I literally don’t know what the hell is happening in those rooms. My head spins when I try to figure it out so I’ve stopped trying entirely. It’s not my job to clean and organize any longer. All I know is my kids’ rooms look like crime scenes and smell like science experiments gone terribly wrong. Their sheets are swirled all over their beds, and they try to convince me that they can wade through the mess to find things just fine. So there’s no need to straighten it up or purge the junk. Never mind the fact that I’ve watched them search for a single shoe for a half hour with no luck.
Their bathroom looks as if they are trying to create abstract toothpaste art on the mirror. Soggy towels are strewn across the floor. The toothbrushes sit in the sink with their heads touching the drains, and I could knit a sweater with all the human hair that floats around on the floor.
I remind my kids that it’s a necessary life skill to know how to clean up after yourself. “WTF?! How can y’all live like this?!” I must have asked this question a million times — to no avail. I’ve asked this question so many times, it makes my blood boil and my anxiety rise just thinking about it.
I know they aren’t doing it out of pure laziness, and it’s common behavior, so I shouldn’t waste my breath, but I keep hoping that maybe one day it will click. Maybe one day I can live with my kids minus the huge mess. But I know it’s a pipe dream. After 16 years of parenting, I’m feeling pretty hopeless. There are only three of them but they can fuck up a living room, dining room, and bathroom faster than my bowels move after a Taco Bell binge. (Really damn fast.)
I love and enjoy my children, but I don’t love or enjoy the entirety of my living space being sprinkled with papers, backpacks, and half-full water bottles. Empty containers lying on the counter will never be pleasing to my eyes and there is no way in an ever-loving bloody hell I am going to soak in this mess like it’s a memory to be prized and treasured. Believe me, I will never miss finding empty chips bags tucked in the sofa cushions and piles of dirty clothes scattered around randomly on the floor after my kids are gone.
I’m not going to miss the mess, because clutter, dirty, and half finished glasses of milk that hibernate in my line of vision makes me anxious — even if it’s the mess is caused by these darling children whom I love so much.
I either have to clean it up myself or tell my unaffected children to get their shit together and clean up after themselves — which is really just another thing that adds to my to-do list that’s never complete anyway.
I need clarity. I need focus. I need to be able to remember where to pick up my kids on the weekends, and who has which activity on what day, and remember to change my underwear. And being surrounded by messes throws me out of whack and messes with my mind — it always has and it always will.
Right now, at this very moment, I’m trying to ignore the 10 empty drinking glasses strategically placed on every windowsill and countertop we have. There isn’t a question in my mind about whether I’ll be pining for these messes to make their way back when all my kids have left the nest. (Spoiler alert: I WILL NOT.)
Because the reality is, contrary to what all those little old ladies in the grocery store tell me, I won’t miss it.
I won’t miss being irritated and short-tempered because there is a sea of stuff in front of me. Not one, tiny bit.
I won’t miss picking up 12 pairs of dirty socks.
I won’t miss cleaning dried toothpaste off the bathroom window.
I won’t miss nagging my kids to put their dishes in the sink.
Perhaps there will come a day when I’ll regret all the nagging and yelling, because I’m on their ass all the time about cleaning up the damn mess. But for now, I need to function so I’ll take my chances.
Besides, I’m pretty sure you can miss you kids and when they are gone and not wish to be accosted by a overflowing backpack that contains a school year’s worth of crap and a mountain of shoes that continue to take up residency in the middle of the hallway. It doesn’t make me a bad mom to admit the clutter makes me an anxious mess. It makes me real, and normal.
I WILL miss my kids. I will miss their presence, their laughter, their sibling antics, knowing they are all safe in our family home.
But. Not. The. Mess.