It’s Not Worth the Fight

WARNING: If you’re a neat freak, this photo may be harmful to your mental health. (Sometimes I worry the actual content itself is a health hazard.)

This is Randi’s room. If you don’t have a room like this in your house, you probably don’t have a teenager. This picture might elevate your blood pressure; anxiety might be gathering in your chest.

Or maybe you’re justifying this mess, thinking perhaps I staged the picture to fit the topic of our conversation today. Or you’re at least hoping I snapped the pic on a “bad” day, that I don’t let Randi’s room look like this all the time. (Sorry to disappoint you. This is how the room looks 362 days of the year.)

Or you may be judging me, wondering what kind of a mother I am to allow such a disaster to exist in my home, or how you’re not going to feel sorry for me when my daughter’s mug shot is on the evening news because I failed to discipline her.

That’s okay. I wonder some of the same things myself from time to time. But mostly…I just close the door.

And for you moms who saw this photo and wondered when I snuck into your home and snapped a pic of your kid’s room, you’re welcome. I’m happy to put my disaster on the internet for the whole world to see–if it makes you feel better to know you’re not the only mom in the universe with a potentially toxic room in her house.

I don’t completely ignore the mess, however. I do impose a few rules to prevent the health department from condemning our home.

RULE #1 Nothing green and fuzzy is allowed to grow in the room.

RULE #2 The source of any smells that waft into the hallway must be found and eliminated immediately.

RULE #3 The room must endure an annual purge (which is currently scheduled for SOON).

But why would I allow such a mess to exist under my roof?

Because I know—and some of you know—how important it is to just close the door.

Because this may be my home…but that is not my space.

That space temporarily belongs to a human girl who needs to control her own environment, who needs a habitat that is uniquely hers, a domain where she reigns…even if it drives me crazy.

On occasion, Randi gets a whim and tidies up without being asked. On those rare days, we sit on her bed and admire the carpet which we haven’t seen in so long and I, nonchalantly, not at all obviously, mention how nice it feels to be uncluttered…hoping something will click and Randi will miraculously remember the mantra I gave up on long ago: a place for everything, and everything in its place.

But she and I both know she prefers her clothes to be scattered on her floor rather than folded neatly in her dresser because things are easier to find that way. And it’s convenient when you need a bobby pin because chances are, if you simply bend down in any spot in the room, you’ll find one. And why make the bed when you’re just going to get right back in it at night?

So…I don’t expect one of Randi’s rare tidy occasions to last more than 24 hours, and about Hour 36, I close the door again.

This is a battle I choose not to fight.

I prefer a clean room. Randi prefers a disaster area (and Hubby is secretly plotting revenge when Randi has her own house someday). We have different opinions, and fighting over differing opinions is not worth upsetting the family peace. That fight, if it happens, becomes a battle of wills. But for what?

As parents, we have many battles to fight, and we can’t fight them all, so we must make choices.

What’s worth fighting for?

I had a friend whose son let his once clean-cut hair grow past his eyes. It was a few years back when that sheepdog look was so popular with the boys. His hair drove her crazy. And her nagging to get it cut drove him crazy. The tension over their differing opinions was thicker than his hair. Finally I asked a question.

What core family values does this go against?

We decided the hair cut wouldn’t affect his eternal salvation, and it wasn’t a health or safety issue. We were pretty certain it wouldn’t harm his chances of graduating high school or getting accepted to college. And, regardless of her opinion, the haircut was not a criminal offense.

“He’ll cut it,” I told her, “when he gets sick of it hanging in his eyes…or when the style changes.”

And a few months later, he did. And now this young man is a college graduate launching a successful career. And I’m sure his momma is very proud.

We have choices to make because not every battle is important…or worth winning.

And we must consider the collateral damage:

  • our toddler’s independence when we change the hairstyle she did all by herself before we leave the house
  • our tween’s self-esteem when expressing her identity seems like a daily wardrobe experiment
  • our teen’s development into young adulthood as he chooses to quit a sport we love or a college major not on our list.

These battles might seem worth it at first. But they’re not.

We have bigger battles to win…and we must fight them daily.

We battle against a deceitful foe in order to protect our children’s spiritual well-being.

We battle against the influence of society as it bombards our family with harmful messages that contradict our core values.

We battle for the integrity and future of our children, even when that means fighting against them sometimes.

These battles we fight with every ounce of love and energy we have to pour into them…because losing is not an option.

So how important is a clean bedroom? To me, not very.

I wonder what other battles we fight that probably shouldn’t be battles at all.

Maybe instead we just need to close the door.


COMMENTS: What battles are fought in your home that may not be worth the fight? What battles are worth every ounce of love and energy you can pour into them? 

(I can ignore Randi’s messy bedroom. Putting her feet on my table? Not! But it did make a funny pic!)

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  1. Kathy Glaskey says:

    I completely agree! I had the same struggle with the bedrooms and came to the same conclusions. There are more important battles to pursue. You are one smart momma!

  2. Glenna says:

    Very true! Just close the door was my mantra when the kids were at home. My girls have been known to dye parts of their hair red or purple and Jerid is growing his hair so he can sell it. I say it’s only hair, whatever! There are more important battles and I don’t need to sweat the little stuff!

    • Karen says:

      Agreed! What’s the rest of the saying about not sweating the small stuff…it’s all small stuff? 🙂

  3. Candice Turner says:

    Oh, I SO needed this peptalk!

  4. Tina Sutton says:

    Great insight for some parents fighting the urge to go ballistic over a room that looks like a tornado hit it. I can honestly say I can see my son’s bedroom floor. I occasionally have to remind him to dust the furniture! Now if you ask about the garage, that’s another story!

  5. Sandy Slusher says:

    This is so true. You always have to pick your battles. I’ve heard it said don’t sweat the small stuff.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      …and it’s all small stuff, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes…or is it a book title??? Something like that. 🙂

  6. Vicki Brunk says:

    I too like things neat and tidy. I fought that battle with one daughter unsuccessfully. One day, after threatening her with words, I came into her room several hours later to find it all cleaned up. I was so pleased that I had won! A few days later, while looking for a shoe, I discovered everything had been thrown into boxes and pushed under her bed. I finally reached the same conclusion that you did. Our relationship was worth more than her doing it MY way. Now she is married with two children and amazingly wants their rooms tidy. Hmmm…wonder how that is going?

    • Karen says:

      Is there a special instruction book for our kiddos that we parents don’t know about? Randi does the same thing when she “pretends” to clean her room! I literally cannot open her closet doors (slides on a runner) because she crams things in it. Another mistake we made was buying her a bed with drawers underneath…also crammed with junk! I’m so relieved to know sloppy kiddos can grow into tidy adults! 🙂

  7. LM says:

    You did it again…I have one of the rooms in my house that looks like that. And yes I remember we have had many talks about this issue. I like to like to try and remember it this way. Remember our Pastor’s message- saying no to the good things so you can say yes to the best… Picking which battles to let go of so you can really focus on what’s important any in your child’s life(growth). Choose wisely!

  8. Julie Hampton says:

    I tend to be a bit of a neat freak myself, but when it comes to my teenagers room you hit the nail on the head. I am glad to know I am not the only parent with teenagers whose room looks like this.

    Thank you Karen for reminding us that there are so many more important things in life than clean rooms, and to know we are not alone!

  9. Shelly says:

    I too battle the messy room with one of my girls while the other is a polar opposite and her room is neat as a pin 24/7. I used to argue with her (the messier of the two) about it but it seems she may have finally turned the corner and she is starting to appreciate a little more cleanliness in her room. As I sit in the living room reading your post I heard the vacuum start in her room. (I did put it in her room about an hour ago but at least she finally decided to turn it on) 🙂

    Love your posts Karen!!!

  10. Tammy Fishbeck says:

    I had that battle with my oldest (Crystal) until a very wise friend of mine had that talk with me to choose my battles and said that one just isn’t worth it Shut the door. Now I have Abby and hers is way way worse but I just close the door sometimes she makes cheese in her room because she drinks lots of half cups of milk but I cut down on that when I load the dishwasher both her and her brother have to bring me all their dirty dishes. But I don’t think we will ever see the floor until she moves out and that will be SAD so we just close the door.

  11. You know Karen (that is so weird to say to this day!), I learned all of this the hard way. I remember one day when Gabe was about 7, his room was also a disaster. I basically lectured him for an hour as to why he needs to keep it clean. A few hours later he left to go to his Dads house for the weekend. I sat there alone, missing my baby and wishing I could play with him. That was when it hit me that I could have been playing with him instead of fussing about his room. He was only 7, and it wasn’t like I allowed anything gross in there. How bad could a bit of mess possibly be? That was when I decided that spending time with my children was more important than keeping up appearances.

  12. Honestly, it is worth so much. I’m still learning new things everyday.

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