Look at that, a clean room. You would think this would be every parents dream to walk in too. You would think that I am currently showing off how my child has finally listened and picked up and organized her room and I want you all to know how great of a parent I am that I could accomplish this elusive feat!
Today, I would give anything to have walked into a cluttered, chaotic mess in this room. While it's the cleanest it's probably ever been, it's because today, she moves into her very own apartment, leaving this space practically empty. You constantly hear me talk about how I truly believe this stage of parenting is the hardest of all of them. Harder than staying up all night and not knowing what's wrong because they can't express themselves, harder than running after crazy and destructive toddlers, harder than eye rolling, know it all teenagers. The one thing I've figured out with my 20/20 hindsight vision in these "transition" years is that with all that craziness - I was in control. I made the rules, I influenced decisions, I had the power to say "No" and I knew where they were every night. No matter how crazy the day, they were home, in bed, safe, every night.
You will spend so much time stressing and yelling, arguing with your kids, with your spouse over things like clean rooms, putting the dishes away, picking up after themselves until one day you will find yourself in a clean, organized home just the way you like it, and your heart will ache. I know these things are important. Make your bed, pick up your socks, clean the bathroom….yada yada yada. I know I haven't always been parent of the year instilling these things in my kids - but maybe I knew that one day, something would happen and I would realize how so unimportant all the fighting was. I believe we need to teach our children to respect their things and other people's things. To take care of their space and all that - I do. I'm just not sure in the end it's worth the frustration we put ourselves through. I do believe that a lot of this comes to us as we evolve. I never cleaned my room, no matter how much my parents yelled - but it doesn't mean I turned into a 40 year old slob. We figure it out as we grow, on our own.
I wish parents put as much energy into cultivating kindness in their children, teaching them respect for all humans, pushing volunteerism, empathy, service as they did asking them to clean their rooms. I've seen parents gloss over and say "that's not nice" and leave it at that when seeing their child be rude or mean to someone else, but ground them for a week over that stupid room.
We wish away the chaos and the mess until one day, we look back and we miss it. The reality is, we don't miss the chaos and the mess, we miss them. And they come with chaos and mess! Welcome to raising children. Deal with it. Don't yell and scream and throw your hands up, embrace it with compassion and empathy and the foresight to know it won't last forever, because it won't.
So next time you walk into your kids messy room - before you blow your top, take a deep breath and find the gratitude for what that mess means. They are there, they need you, they are expressing themselves, they are busy, they are happy, they are safe, they are home. Then, ask them again in a calm voice to pick up their room, and maybe offer to do it together.
Don't worry, one day, you will no longer have to yell down the stairs "Clean your room."