I had an epiphany over the weekend. Well, more like I remembered something I forgot. I’ll blame it on the fact that I haven’t been a practicing therapist for almost 4 years.
Sometimes we take small things and make them big things.
Sometimes we fret over stuff that isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things.
Two common slogans that sum these concepts up perfectly:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Keep things in perspective.
Slogans mean nothing if there’s no understanding or concept so today, I’m sharing an example.
Keeping Things In Perspective With My Teen (Messy Room and All)
My college-aged daughter (who still lives with me) has been out of town for the past week.
Sunday football was on and my husband and father were yelling at the TV and discussing bad calls and linemen. I love football myself but on this day, I needed some quiet.
Have you ever felt that way? Where you just needed a quiet place to go?
On this day, my quiet place was my daughter’s bedroom.
When I walked in, what I saw, shocked me.
There were crumpled clothes on the floor, mounds of clothes on the bed, empty drinking glasses with something growing in them.
There were stacks of magazines scattered around, crumpled up receipts, old paycheck stubs, hair ties, a half-dead plant, old movie ticket stubs, half empty (or half full) water bottles scattered everywhere, graded school papers, broken pens/pencils, a few unrecognizable items, and dust and dust bunnies everywhere! Ugh.
There were coats of dust on her dresser, nightstand, and window sill. I saw dust bunnies in the corners of her room, under her bed, on her tv, and floating around on the floor. Gross.
The neat freak in me was screaming.
Didn’t I teach my daughter to keep her room clean?
My immediate thoughts:
What is wrong with her? How can she stand it in here? Why hadn’t I noticed this mess before?
I try to give my teen daughter her privacy so I seldom go into her room. I know how important it is for a teen to have their own space. Their own refuge. As a result, I seldom entered her “domain” (as she likes to call it).
After getting over the initial shock of the disaster zone, my first instinct was to start cleaning up the mess but then that would only teach her that if she leaves her room messy, Mom will come in and clean it.
Nope. I’m not reinforcing the messy behavior.
My second instinct was to call her up and yell at her. I seldom yell (because it’s not really effective) but I wanted to because the only thing I ask her to do around the house is to keep her room clean and you mean to tell me that she can’t do this one simple thing? Really? Okay, deep breath.
You know what? What am I thinking?
Let’s look at the whole picture. Let’s keep things in perspective.
My daughter attends college full time, holds a part-time job, doesn’t do drugs, is kind and compassionate to others, and a pleasure to be around.
Why would I call her while she’s on vacation and yell at her because her room’s a mess?
In the scheme of things, how big of a deal is it? It’s not a huge deal.
Granted, I would love for her to be neat and tidy like me, but she’s not me. She’s a young adult trying to figure out who she is.
She’s succeeding during her first year of college. She’s held down the same job for almost two years and she pays her bills on time.
You know what? This is her space and she has to learn how to independently live in it. I’ve already taught her whole life that keeping one’s area clean is important.
I’ve modeled it for her all her life. It’s time for me to let go. If you’ve modeled positive behaviors for your teen, there comes a time when you have let go too.
And my child, she’s nineteen. Not nine.
And this nineteen-year-old of mine is succeeding with the big stuff (job, college, bills, etc.,) so the dust bunnies (the little things) will not be my main focus.
My healthy, happy daughter will be my focus instead.
Because it is all about perspective. Once you change your perspective, the relationship will change as well.
And that will be epic.
Edited to add:
This post was written when my daughter was nineteen. It’s November 2018 and she’s now twenty-six. She has been out on her own for over seven years. Let me give you a little update. She’s neat and clean just like her mama. Gone are the days of dead plants, crumpled up receipts and glasses with stuff growing in them. She takes pride in her living area and she’s told me she often thinks, “what would my mom do?” I’m glad I didn’t sweat the small stuff.