Messy Bedrooms: When Batman Meets Elsa

“It’s going to be okay, baby. We can handle this.” My husband tried in vain to calm me as I breathed frantically into a paper bag, standing amid toys, shoes, books, crumpled paper, naked Barbie dolls, balled-up socks, and miscellaneous kid crap scattered as far as the eye can see.

“It’s just…it’s so much. I don’t think I can do it,” I wailed. “It’s going to take so long. Even with their help. I just can’t!”

“Shh, it’s not as bad as you think. I mean, look at it this way – it’s their mess! We’ll just tell them they have to clean it all up before they can watch TV or use their tablet. I’ll help ‘em if I have to and you can even leave the house. Go to Starbucks, get a coffee or something. Everything is fine. Now then. What are we going to do for dinner.” The last part not so much a question as a subject change and a sign that Super Dad’s empathy for my distress was beginning to wane.

His offer for me leave the house while he helps the girls clean their room mentally filed away under “Shit He Didn’t Mean that I’m Definitely Going to Take Him Up on Anyway,” I worked to regain my composure.

Maybe I was overreacting. The truth is, a messy bedroom qualifies as small stuff of the variety that we should not sweat. However, to me, it’s hard to keep this kind of thing in perspective. I have a full body stress reaction to the wall-to-wall clutter because it represents everything that is hard for me about being a parent. It is the physical manifestation of all the control I do not have. The carefully designed systems and labels and files of my younger years have been chewed up and spit out by little humans of my own making. No longer can I sleep peacefully with the knowledge that all of the American Girl Doll accessories are tucked neatly into the labeled drawer I’ve assigned to them. The days of tidy bookshelves arranged by size and shape are behind me. Only in my wildest fantasies are the four and one half million Legos actually in the designated Lego storage container. At any time, the Batman and Superman figurines can be found scattered amongst the Disney figurines. IN WHAT UNIVERSE DOES THAT EVEN MAKE SENSE?!?

When they were younger, it was easier – they had less stuff, couldn’t reach all the things, and I was involved with more of their playtime. Picking up took a few minutes and a little bit of encouragement. Now that they are older and have so many more things, can access most of it without help, and their play is more complex (A veterinarian clinic that is a school and also a beauty shop for Barbie dolls anyone?) cleaning up is a more complicated and lengthy process that usually results in tears and threats of world domination.

While I hold them accountable for cleaning up after themselves, there are times when the mess in their rooms reaches such a crescendo that adult help is required to clean it up or the end result will be a bunch of crap shoved under beds and inside tote bags. And I really, really hate crap shoved under beds and inside tote bags.

It’s this type of mess that makes me hyperventilate and gives me hives because I could spend an entire Saturday helping them get their rooms back in order. But then it’s messy again in 14 or 15 minutes which means I’ve wasted a perfectly good day that could have been spent shopping for more stuff to clutter up my house. {Insert sheepish emoji here.}

When they get older, it will be easier. Maybe some kids even grow up to like having their space neatly organized. That could totally happen, right? And if it doesn’t, eventually they’ll move out and take most (some?) of their mess with them. But all the veteran moms say I’ll miss this later. That one day, I’ll wish for the mess and noise and chaos to fill my house again. That’s hard to wrap my brain around just now. But since they’ve been right about everything else so far, I’m sure this is true too. So, when my kids get older, it will be easier. But also, maybe harder. Great.

Right now, though, while my very own super hero helps the kids clean up their most recent crap-a-palooza, I’m going to escape to a world in which everything is orderly and makes sense. A clutter-free place with labeled shelves, no toys, no dirty laundry. A place that specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of mom-fuel. Holy Starbucks, Batman.

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