I’m Completely Overwhelmed And I’m Coping By Letting The Kids Trash The House

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I’m completely overwhelmed.

Saying that seems almost unnecessary since I don’t know a single parent right now who doesn’t feel completely underwater. 

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Pre-pandemic, I’d say overwhelm was already fairly common in parents. Add in the lockdowns, the yo-yos of school closures, and the ever-present dread of what might be next and it’s no wonder things feel out of control. 

Everyone has their own way of coping with problems and stress. 

Some exercise more (I wish), some eat more (guilty), some stare blankly at the wall for an unacceptable amount of time (ahem, also me). 

Lately, I’ve found a new way of coping: letting my kids trash the house

Yes, that is my current coping mechanism. 

I usually like a clean house. It stresses me out to stare at a mess. Normally, I’m pretty diligent about making sure my chores — and my children’s chores — are completed. 

Normally.

Of course, “normal” received the Old Yeller treatment a full year ago. Now, we’re still operating in survival mode and if you look at my house, that’s clear.

With everything else on my plate, chores and tidiness is just not the hill I’m willing to die on right now.

See, all my kids are at the ages where chores for them are also chores for me, times three. 

First I have to explain and model how to do the chores. 

Then, I have to remind (read: nag) them to complete their chores. 

Finally, I have to do many of their chores again after they finish.

(I’m sorry, but a five-year-old just doesn’t do a fully adequate job of cleaning a bathroom used by boys. Health and safety demand my follow-up.)

In regular times, that’s a task I’m willing to undertake. I’m not just raising little boys; I’m raising future adults and they need to know how to properly clean a house.

But in these crazy, chaotic times? 

Often, I just don’t have it in me to do the extra work their “helping” creates. 

I’m already my children’s 100% teacher and playmate, with no relief in sight. Most days, I’m too tired to be their chore drillmaster too.

Plus, they’re also dealing with a lot.

All the changes and uncertainty create big feelings in our little people. Harping on their messy rooms doesn’t always seem like the best use of my parenting capital. 

When they go upstairs to play without me, I know what that means. 

They’re going to dump out bins and buckets. 

They’re going to set up action figures all over the place. 

They’re going to leave stray Legos in their wake like glitter at a strip club.

And then they’re going to leave it all there and make a new mess somewhere else, like a pack of wild animals. 

But you know what? 

While they’re doing their ransacking independently, I’m going to take the blissful few minutes of freedom it creates for me — freedom I used to get regularly back when actual school days, babysitters, and activities were still a thing.

Should I make them stop and clean up their one activity before they move onto the next?

Absolutely.

Am I going to?

Probably not. 

Is this cultivating bad habits I’m going to have to break later?

I’m sure it is. 

But maybe when the world is open again and we’ve regained some semblance of normalcy, I’ll actually have the patience and energy to break those bad habits.

Maybe when my kids are going to school, seeing friends, and can visit the local library maskless, they’ll be in a better position to embrace better habits. 

In the meantime, we’ll clean haphazardly and sporadically. 

Sometimes I’ll make them clean up their messes right away and sometimes I’ll just pretend I don’t see them. 

This is how I’m getting through the eleven-months-and-counting of this worldwide train wreck. 

And the one “good” thing about all this social distancing

At least we’re not expecting company anytime soon.

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