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Daditude: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Mess That Comes with Raising Kids

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Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Mess That Comes with Raising Kids

It’s a truth I’ve learned well: Life with three kids is wonderful in so many ways and challenging in so many others, but one constant is that it certainly is messy.

My 7-year-old daughter is immensely intelligent, fiercely determined, incredibly warm—and a complete slob. My 11-year-old is mature, responsible, and keeps her room neat and orderly without us nagging, but still seems unbothered by the coat she’s left mid-living-room floor or the food she’s left out on the counter. And my 4-year-old? Use your imagination.

It’s a truth I’ve learned well: Life with three kids is wonderful in so many ways and challenging in so many others, but one constant is that it certainly is messy.

I’m not a neat freak, but I do gravitate toward a certain orderliness in my life—a value I’ve more or less had to jettison as we raise our children. Meals end with more crumbs on the floor than seems possible from the amount of food we started with, strewn in places so improbable that physics can’t explain how they traveled there from my kids’ plates. There is marker and paint on or around every surface used for arts and crafts, not to mention a unique mix of glitter, paper scraps, and stickers. And the kids’ bedroom floors are usually a mix of dirty clothes, clean clothes, wet towels, and umpteen toys at every point on the spectrum from whole to shattered.

We try to set and enforce expectations around cleanup—really, we do. Sometimes that takes the form of drop-everything-and-clean-or-there’s-no-TV urgency. Other times, it’s a half-hearted, and half-successful, effort to get the house somewhat cleaner before bedtime. But cleanup around here is a task that makes Sisyphus look accomplished. Like some Newtonian law of the universe, crumbs, toys, clothes, and towels are back in place mid-floor before the final closet door is closed and our final praise offered for a job done (if not always well).

Sure, I get tired of the mess, but I accept it for what it is: It’s a sign of life and vibrancy, the detritus of lives lived enthusiastically and fully. That’s not to say I give my kids a complete pass. But I understand that at this point in their lives, I need to embrace a certain level of chaos and mess.

I know other families that have, from Day One, taught their kids to put away every toy as soon as they are done with it, to clean up their spot before leaving the table. Part of me admires and envies them—but part of me realizes that way is not our way, and it’s not our kids’ fault. We all choose how to spend our time and where to put our emphasis as parents, and however implicitly, we have made our choices and let our priorities be known. Our lives are busy and overprogrammed, adults and kids alike, and I, for one, lack the time and energy to maintain an ideal level of order and cleanliness or to ask it from my kids. So for now, I’ll embrace the mess for the living it represents, and get out the broom one more time to sweep under that table.

How many books do you currently have in your house? Include books on tape, audio books, and eBooks, as well as all hard and soft cover books that you own or have borrowed. Select one answer below.

Parents Talk Back
How many books do you currently have in your house? Include books on tape, audio books, and eBooks, as well as all hard and soft cover books that you own or have borrowed. Select one answer below.
1 to 10
4% (3 votes)
10 to 20
4% (3 votes)
20 to 50
8% (6 votes)
50 to 100
15% (11 votes)
More than 100
69% (51 votes)
Total votes: 74