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Challenge: Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

My kids are gross. I don’t even care.

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My kids are gross. I don’t even care.

Well, I mostly don’t even care.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the 5% of me that still gets bowed up at the pure “ick” of teenage hygiene. BUT, that 5% is down, down, down from an all time high rating of 173%. Why does this dip in hygiene happen? Is there a light switch, at age sixteen, that causes these alien beings to forget all the wonderful things that we pristine parents have taught them in the prior decade and a half? Or is this lackadaisical approach to cleanliness just part of “pushing back?”


As of late, I have (mostly) tagged out of actually caring. It’s not that I’m trying to shirk my parental public health duties. It’s just that I’ve reached a status of shrug.

I noticed this slide in my attitude a few weeks ago and no one was more surprised than, well, me. I was doing the very first world task of making sure that our robot vacuum, Pizza Joe, would be able to traverse the upstairs floor of our house. And by “floor,” I mean the actual flat surface that houses the furniture in three bedrooms. It is a job that Pizza Joe is tasked with weekly, though not on a specific day as I am not quite that organized. My kids would love for me to be that organized because it would give them the safety nets of A) being sure that their carpets were visible on that one out of seven days each week and B) ensure they receive a courtesy vacuum that would mean C) they wouldn't be forced to lug the actual, non-robot vacuum upstairs to then shove around their rooms by (gasp!) themselves.

A specific day would also remove the super infringing “surprise” parental peeks into their lairs. The type of peeks that typically end with this particular parent taking pictures of piles of trash or unmade beds or candy wrappers hidden (not very well) on bookshelves or once clean, but not quite dry, laundry crumpled in a damp pile behind the closet door.

Full disclosure: I take the pictures to send to their father. I have learned that it is better coming from him, the ensuing discussion on room expectations. Plus, there is something great about putting the lecture on his plate. Plus, there is something great about how it doesn’t make a difference whether the lecture comes from him, either.


I put Pizza Joe to work in the parental bedroom and then went to check the status of the teen bedrooms while PJ got warmed up. I opened the door to our son’s room (16) and found clothes strewn across the floor, blankets strewn across the bed, and black-out curtains strewn across the windows. I suspect the strewns were created that very morning when he woke up late for school. Which would likely also explain the dungeon-like appearance created by the still hidden windows.

I did not take a picture.

I shrugged, backed out of the room, and shut the door.

I then went to our daughter’s room (19) and found the scene a bit better, yes, but still, no Pizza Joe for her, either.

Again, no picture, just a shrug and a reversal of my tracks.

I skipped down the stairs, light and airy and without a care in the world.

Okay, there was no skipping, I’m a bifocal wearing fifty year old, not an idiot.

But, yes, light and airy. Without a care. I strolled by my husband’s office with a quick request that he have the kids vacuum their own rooms in the coming days and then carried on with my day.

Who am I?

It wasn’t but two days later that I awoke just enough to make sure that my daughter left for work on time. No, I do not wake her up, cook her breakfast, or shuffle her out the door at 6:00am, but my mom senses always bubble to half-awake at her “go” time just in case. I lay in bed, listening to her bump around while digging through a pile of behind-the-closet-door clothes. I heard her bedroom door open and close…and…and…and…down the stairs she went. Something was missing. Oh. Yes. She had skipped a stop in the bathroom. You know, where teeth are brushed.


Also, ew?


Now I was invested. Two hours later, I heard a similar pattern when my son got up for school. I listened to the same pattern from both kids for several of the following days. Sure, there was the occasional pitstop to pee, but rarely with the additional sound of enough running water for an adequate removal of pasty morning breath.

Oh, okay.

So, neither of my kids brush their teeth in the morning anymore?


Y’all, I’ve just given up.

After years and years and years of: Make your bed, do your laundry, pick up your clothes, throw away your trash, flush the toilet, dust, brush your teeth (or your hair, maybe?), I have tagged the heckle out. Adios. Later tater. Peace out.

Who am I?

I’m late to this train of not looking for the devil in the missing details.

Yes, I obviously do still care about hygiene and how it is maintained in my children’s lives. What I don’t care for, anymore, is reminding them day in and day out to handle it.

Where did this change in attitude come from?

Honestly, I think I have finally adopted my husband’s mantra of not sweating the small stuff. I think I adopted it after experiencing a very real “oh, now that’s something to stress about” moment last summer. Until then, we did spend a lot of our parental energy creating big problems out of some really, really small shite.

Did I say “we?” Okay. Me. It was me. I had red alert reactions for everything from vegetable intake to wrinkled shirts to arms covered with ink to too much video game time to forgetting to put dishes in the dishwasher to leaving shoes in the living room. It was just an ongoing list of shite to be upset about.

Then, six months ago, after having to pause our entire familial life to rescue our eldest from a mental blackhole, all of that self-created angst just kind of began to evaporate. Was I really so keyed up all of the time because of our total lack of “real issues” to be keyed up about? It sure seemed like it because, when we finally (and unfortunately) had a “real issue,” all that shite on that ongoing list suddenly seemed like really, really small shite.

We have been lucky, in our home, in that we really have had very few actual challenges. And we certainly have had much less to worry about than the majority of the population. In turn, our home became a hotbed of pointless ponderings. I suppose that’s why my level of anxiety at the mundane things has always been so much higher than my husband’s. He grew up in an environment that was constantly edging toward a cliff. I did not. He rarely becomes stressed about anything. I do. It seems that he had enough stress, in fighting his way to adulthood, to last a lifetime. I did not. He does not subconsciously seek out things to fill his fight or flight bucket. I swear to gawd, I think I actually do (or did).

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Total cliche, right? I hate that it took the emotional flattening of a mentally struggling child for me to realize that it was also true. So, yes, I have stopped sweating the small stuff. Mostly.

The best I can do, going forward, is assure all future boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, employers and in-laws that I really did try my best. I did teach my children how to operate all kinds of brushes. I made sure my children knew how to complete a load of laundry, from washer to dryer and from folding to putting away. I did walk them through various kitchen related tasks, the majority of which did not have to do with the actual cooking but, instead, leaned heavily on how to wipe down a counter or open a dishwasher or use a sponge or throw away an empty cereal box. They both have had lessons in trash disposal in both the using of the smaller “inside the house” cans and, then, the disposal of those contents into the larger cans collected weekly at the end of our driveway. They have also had lessons in bringing those larger cans back to the house once emptied. They even used to know how to flush toilets.

You see, I have given them the tools to function as well-groomed individuals who take pride in their surroundings. It’s just that they don’t always opt for that path.

So, yes, I’m tagging out of all of those formerly nag-worthy items. It’s not like I’m the one who will get the side eye from a cavity discovering dentist anymore, right?

About a week after my light and airy jaunt down the stairs, I was doing another visual sweep of the upstairs. The quick trip through the kids’ rooms took a small hiccup when I noticed a not great odor coming from their shared bathroom. Oh my. Seems that someone had left a doodie in the toilet. I know my children. I also knew that one was away at a friend’s and the other’s very predictable schedule indicated that this doodie was now no less than twelve hours old, likely strewn after school the previous day.



Don’t sweat the big shite, either, I guess.



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