Thursday, September 27, 2012

Messy vs. Neat

My second- and third-born children are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to keeping their rooms neat, and I've often wondered why--they share the same gene pool, they grew up in the same environment, and yet they are nothing alike in this particular area.  No matter how many times I asked my son to clean his room or pitched in and cleaned it myself, it just didn't stay clean.  By the time he was in as in high school, I gave up hounding him about it.  Occasionally, he took it upon himself to clean things up, but most of the time, you could barely see the floor--it was covered with piles of dirty clothes, stacks of clean clothes, books, sneakers, candy wrappers, and school papers.  I think he actually liked the way his room looked and felt when it was clean, but it didn't matter enough to him to keep it that way since the mess didn't really bother him.   In contrast, my daughter's room is a model of organization.  She makes her bed every morning, her dresser drawers hold neat stacks of clothes, her closet is organized by color, her bookshelves are carefully arranged and maintained.  When she comes home from a trip, she unpacks immediately and puts everything away.  She can't understand why anyone wouldn't do this or how a person could take off clothes and leave them on the floor instead of putting them away.  Thinking about this difference between two of my kids made me realize something.  As our kids grow up and leave home, it's easy for us parents to blame ourselves when one of them is in distress.  We're quick to worry that maybe we didn't do enough as parents or maybe we did too much.  Even when it's not quite rational, we fall into the trap of thinking that if we'd just been better parents, our children wouldn't be suffering.  But if I think just about Darton's room vs. Em's room, I can easily see that it wasn't anything I did or didn't do as a parent that made one of them messy and the other neat--it's just the way they are. So maybe instead of getting caught up in blaming ourselves, the best thing we parents can do is to help our kids through the hard times they will inevitably face as adults, whether this means helping them clean up a mess to find something they've lost, encouraging them to relax and take things in stride, or simply reminding them how very much they are loved.

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