Dear Teens, It’s Time You Learn to Clean Up Your Own Messes

Dear Lovely Children,

I know you are sad that the chips are stale and you can’t enjoy them during your Mario Brothers tournament as you’d hoped, but I’m not letting another bag of chips walk through these four walls, until someone eats them, crafts with them, or resells them. They are no longer enjoyable because you left the bag open on the floor less than an hour after I brought them home, unpacked them, and put them in a safe place in the dark shelves of the pantry.

teen messy room
Dear Kids, you are the housekeepers of your own lives. (Twenty20 @TrinityDawn)

Letter to my messy teens

You know where the chip clips are. You know how to close a bag. You know chips get stale in precisely two minutes during this hot/humid weather.

Also, I’m sorry you feel like there is never any food in the house, but your angst is self-induced since you feel the need to eat all your favorite items as soon as I set them on the counter.

Your love of a birdbath-sized bowl of fruity pebbles is much stronger than my love of going to the grocery store every day, so you will either have to demonstrate some self-control with the cereal intake or go without until I find time to get back to the store. Maybe a bowl of crunchy sugar every few days is better than a few bowls in a day, but what do I know?

We’ve reached the stage where we are all too mature in this house for me to hide food and dole it out in small batches so it lasts through the week. I did that for a decade and I’m over it. Unless we are talking about my Lindt chocolate balls. In that case, I’ll use all my energy to hide those suckers.

And the other morning, no one could find matching socks and you were forced to dig through the piles in your room to find some. Then you were mad that there wasn’t enough time to do a load of laundry before we went away for the weekend. That’s unfortunate.

You know socks don’t get clean when left on the floor, and you all know how they get clean so, I have a hard time finding the disconnect.

There was a time I used to break my back making sure you had clean, dry, matching everything but I’ve retired that part of my mom life. And oh, I’m feeling fine.

If you’ve treated someone poorly (myself included), that’s on you, kiddo. It’s you who needs to make it right. You are the one who needs to apologize and follow through with better behavior, or you will feel the consequences like the other day when one of you decided to post a video of your friend on Snapchat after they asked you not to, and then they didn’t talk to you for a week.

I’m here for support and advice and some swift smack-talk when needed (often), but you are the housekeepers of your own life. You need to put yourselves to bed on time and not eat a truck-load of sugar for breakfast. And you need to wipe pee off of the toilet seat if you don’t want to sit in it.


I’ve done that part of mom labor. The teen years bring on more worries and stresses than making sure you wear clean clothes and have fresh, crisp potato chips. I’ve moved on and hung up my laundry duties to teach you how to drive, have meaningful relationships, and search your backpacks now and again for vape pens and pills.

You are up to bat now. I’ve taught you well, and I’m ready to pass the baton whether you do what I’ve taught you, or not.

And if you don’t? Well, I’ve found that having to clean up your mess works like a charm.

I’ll be sitting over here as a sounding board with zero guilt so when you go without cereal for 6 days, or have to have a really hard talk with a friend, I’ll be sitting over here as a sounding board with zero guilt. I know that when you want something badly enough, you’ll figure out how to make it happen.



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About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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