That Fine Line

My kids never put up their wet towels. And when I say “never” I actually mean “995 times out of 1,000” but for practical purposes, let’s round up to “never.” When I come home after work and see the wet towels I get really angry and demand they get put up. Then I see them 15 minutes later still on the floor and I am so overwhelmed with frustration my night spirals out of control and everyone has a shitty time because I’m SO SICK OF SEEING WET TOWELS ON THE DAMN FLOOR.

On the weekends it’s worse because all day long it’s a thing. Why don’t they remember to hang them up? And when they don’t remember, why don’t they put them up IMMEDIATELY when I point it out? HOW CAN THEY GET DISTRACTED ON THE WAY TO THE BATHROOM?

But – on the advice of a friend (Elsa) – I let it go. As much as possible, anyway. It is now something I do when I let the dog out after work. I go to the various places around the house there might be a wet towel, and I pick it up and hang it up. Sometimes I tell the kids I’ve done it, just so they know I’m doing it. But it’s not something that eats at my soul any more and ruins many nights. It’s just another domestic task in my day.

I gave up after years and years of trying to train them. But we’re all better for it.

My question is – what are your thoughts?

On one hand? Who the hell cares about the towels? BIG PICTURE – not a big deal. Why was that becoming SUCH A DAMN THING? It was ruining all of our nights and it was making me DAMN INSANE. It felt so good to let that go. Now we can have nice afternoons discussing our days instead of me twitching like a crazy person in the corner of the bathroom.

On the other hand? What if my kids grow up to be assholes? Some habits we ingrain in them are habits that are good for the entire household and if they can’t see those behaviors and change them, are they going to be horrible humans?

Do you have things you nag about that you just gave up on? Did you experience relief like I did? Do you think this is a good thing or a bad thing? DISCUSS.

23 thoughts on “That Fine Line”

  1. So, my husband grew up with someone picking up after him all the time, and now (claims) he is incapable of seeing messes/learning to be tidy.

    It drives me INSANE, but I still married him knowing this. And his many good qualities outweigh it.

    But we both agree (because being SO BAD at housekeeping, and putting that entire burden on me does actually bother him) that we need to teach our kids something different.

    In practice, I pick up after everyone, because our son is just as bad, and I only ever try to get him to tidy things in very small, occasional bursts, because it is the MOST FRUSTRATING THING EVER (he is 5).

    So, I dunno. If you figure it out, let me know? 🙂

  2. My son was a slob growing up. My line was that I gave up trying to have him keep his room clean- to my standards. I just told him that if he wasn’t going to keep it clean, he had to keep the door shut and he wasn’t allowed to have anyone over unless it was clean.
    Now, he’s out on his own and his apartment is clean most of the time. When he’s in charge of the cleaning, it gets done, and to MY requirements from when he was a kid. If his girlfriend cleans, though, it’s not really all that clean.
    So, they might be assholes now, about towels, but they’ll grow out of it.

    My battle right now? Wet washcloths on the shower floor. In a pile. For days at a time. It’s one offender, and the others have given up taking care of it themselves, instead they remind that offender that the washcloths are there and just leave them. They’ve apparently given up that battle as well.

    I’ve given up so many battles as I work through my own issues. I realize it’s more of a problem FOR ME, than it for them, most of the time. I’m very relaxed about most things, though, NOW. When I was younger, I was a screaming banshee about most things, even the most inconsequential things. I’ve matured, and in maturing, I’ve been able to start seeing my own flaws and not project them onto my kiddos. There are still things that drive me nutso. The fact that they all come home and just drop everything right inside the doorway. The collection of shoes in the entry, after a couple of days, I just chuck them down the stairs (where the bedrooms are) and they can clean them up since the shoes are now in THEIR way.

  3. My battle right now is dishes. Everyone leaves their dirty dishes on the table. I ask and nag them to take them to the sink. Wesley does it sometimes. Sometimes I just leave them on the table so they are in the way for the next meal. Unfortunately then much of the time my husband cleans them up, not the kids. So I don’t know how to make this work either. My kids have basically no chores because my husband is sure they will make things worse. They do clean their rooms, at least sort of, when the house keeper is coming, because she has picked up for them and then they can’t find their things. I share your frustration!

  4. I was just having this conversation (in my head) last night. My husband is absolutely amazing but his one quirk that drives me nuts is an inability to put things away. He generally doesn’t do it at all (I’m talking laundry piles that sit for months) or if it has to happen, will pile everything together and stash it in a spare room or in the garage or something. So I’m thinking it’s put away only to find a giant lump of tools or whatnot. Then he wonders why he can’t find things. I’m not perfect, I’ll let stuff pile up too, esp while I’m using it, but when I am done, it gets put away in some reasonable amount of time (not 6 months) and lo! I can find it next time. We’d worked it out for our stuff (I do my own laundry so I can hang it immediately), but it’s tougher with baby things which are split duties and require cooperation. And I worry that as the boys get older they are going to see that dad never puts anything away so why should they? :/

  5. No kids but towels on the floor would drive me nuts, as would shoes in the non-shoe areas of the house! Growing up, mom would tell us to hang up towels/put away “stuff” cluttering the living/family areas. If we didn’t comply in a reasonable amount of time, she simply walked with us and watched us do it. She didn’t do it for us or pick up our things. Made us eye-rolly, but we learned it was easier to just do it first thing than to go through that. And that became habit after a while.

  6. YES !!!! The towels !!!! And also leaving dirty clothes right next to the laundry basket !! PLUS the facecloths on the shower floor … so glad to hear im not the only one driven crazy by this. Luckily my kids are old enough now (12 and 15) that they have mobile phones that can be taken away when they don’t do what they should.I hardly ever pick it up for them i just say “bathroom please girls” and they know what i mean but i hate the fact that they need to be reminded .

  7. I have so many thoughts on this! I agree, you are doing the right thing by letting it go. Someday they will remember this and will take care of it when on their own. Or, maybe not. It won’t make them assholes, just people with towels on the floor.

    There are so many things I’ve let go over the years. I still nag a bit about some things so that hopefully they will store that in the back of their minds for when they are on their own but… who knows?

    My older two slobs are both in apartments at college now and ask to borrow cleaning things (vacuum, steamer, etc) to clean. THEY ASK TO BORROW CLEANING THINGS!!! It is a day I never saw coming. In fact, my oldest (21 y/o) has asked for rec’s for a vacuum of his own! Who are these creatures that have replaced my children???

    So, all this to say – there is hope!

  8. Are they old enough to do laundry? Maybe if they see how much extra work it is to go around picking up dirty clothes and wet towels they’ll understand why it bothers you? Or if they’re not old enough to start doing laundry yet, maybe if you explain WHY it’s a pain in the ass — instead of just yelling and nagging — it’ll start to sink in. I don’t have kids, but I did used to be one, and I know kids tune nagging right out. So there either need to be consequences for not following through if you have to do what you’ve asked THEM to do … or, yeah, you’re gonna have to let it go.

  9. UGH I want to let it go, I would LOVE to, but the problem is FIVE people live here and if I’m the only one picking up I WILL GO INSANE and never have any free time! They will all GLADLY sit around and watch me clean – it makes ME SEE RED.

  10. With clearing plates, my husband spent several months being really strict about it. He told them, he made them come back to the table, he insisted on plate clearing, and now the boys just do it for the most part. For towels, I don’t care where they are hung so long as they are hung. So I end up with a lot of towels draped over the stair rail, bedroom chair, closet door, but it’s better than a heap on the floor getting stinky. About laundry, I only wash the clothes that are in the laundry room on my laundry day. If you don’t get them there, you don’t get clean clothes, and I’m not changing my laundry schedule for you. My husband is the worst offender on that.

  11. The best parenting advice I ever got was “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Basically, decide what’s important and let the rest go. But you have to stick to your decision, not give up after the 5th (10th, 100th) you have battled with kid. At our house, it’s clearing the table. I don’t clear other people’s dishes, period. If your dishes are still on the table at the next meal? Your food is served on the dirty dish.

    The parenting book “love and logic” talks about natural consequences. (don’t clear your dishes equals use them again, NOT a lost privilege at some future time) So when you leave a wet towel on the floor, you get to use that wet towel next time. “Ohh, it’s moldy and stinky? So sorry kid, that won’t happen if it’s hung up and is able to dry.” And then MOVE ON. Let the kid make the connection between their action (or inaction) and the consequence. Regarding the towels, can you issue one bath towel per week per kid? Then they will get the joy of using their wet towel day after day if they don’t have access to a closet of fresh towels. My kids are close in age to yours (10, 7, 5) and it doesn’t take them long to make the connection.

    I hear so many people say “my kids don’t do anything around the house.” (full disclosure, I say this all time) Well, did you actually teach them to do anything? It took my kids about 3 months to learn to clean the bathrooms properly, so we had 3 months of slightly gross bathrooms but now I’m looking forward to a decade of clean bathrooms.

    Sorry for the soapbox. TLDR: teach your kids to take care of themselves.

  12. My daughter was not good about cleaning up after herself. I just made her shut the room door. When she was in college , she drove her roommates nuts. When she changed school, she got single apartments. They stayed clean. Now her house is cleaner than mine and at times when her job was part time, she cleaned other peoples homes to earn more money. I do like the idea of letting them use wet towels

  13. To me, this is parenting in a nutshell – worrying that my kids will grow up to be assholes. I feel ya, both in general and about the towel thing.

  14. Best parenting advice to give is to pick your battles. Young ones are naturally self absorbed until they grow out of it. Your overall parenting style seems to be a good model for helping them to grow out of it (IMHO). Also, see Eliah (see, you already saw one into adulthood successfully!)

    I use a star chart for my 7 year old to help positively reinforce better habits. Once he earns a certain number of stars, he gets a reward.

  15. So, I read this advice on chores once that was so smart it blew my mind. I haven’t had the perfect opportunity to try it yet in my house, but it seems custom made for this situation.

    You pick up the towels, because that reduces your overall stress. BUT, every time you do it? They have to pay you money, like a quarter per towel. Because it was their job, and you had to do it, so you get paid. I suggest you announce this new plan of attack, rifle through their piggie banks as necessary, and let us know how it goes.

  16. I agree that it’s mostly on me — I’m the one who cares the most about the house being clean and things picked. If I don’t do it or nag the others about it, it just doesn’t get done. But it does bother me. However, I wonder what would happen if I just kept my mouth shut and stopped doing all the things I do? Has anyone tried just stopping?

  17. I do that to my son. He’s thrown tantrums over it (he’s 5) but I’m standing my ground. Is this one of those choose your battles things? Yes, but I also think about how much I appreciate everything my husband does around the house (I’m the slob in the marriage) and want my son to follow in his footsteps!

  18. Honestly, I keep nagging (I prefer to think of it as teaching…a lesson in life that will benefit their future roommates, spouses, etc.). We do have a set of hooks in the kids’ bathroom (and one towel bar). They find the hooks a lot easier to manage, so most of the time, the job gets done. I have caught my younger son putting his towel into the laundry basket, though, just so he won’t have to hang it up. I wash towels about once a week (you should be *clean* when you dry off with them, right?), so this is a No Go for me. When I catch it, I make him hang it up…

  19. My kids are 16 and 13 and do their own laundry and unload the dishwasher and take out the trash and clean the bathrooms once a week, so they do have some chores. But I pick up the towels everyday when I get home from work as well as clean off the breakfast dishes from the table. I have chosen to let it go and it doesn’t bother me anymore!

  20. YES I HAVE TRIED STOPPING doing all of the cleaning and NOW IT’S JUST MORE MESSY and gross?? So – the answer cannot be either “mom yells until everyone is deaf” or “mom does it all” – WHAT DO I DO??OMG IT IS KILLING ME

  21. We use this in my classroom, it’s called Wait, Ask, Say, Do.
    Give direction—pick up the towels.
    Wait for compliance.
    No compliance, ask-what was the direction?
    Child is expected to restate the direction and carry it out.
    No compliance, you take their hand and guide them to the bathroom to assist.
    Carrying out any direction is all about motivation—-what do I get from this experience or what am I avoiding by doing it? Maybe they do it to avoid having to pay you the quarter, maybe they do it to avoid you assisting them each time, maybe they do it because they get a gold star on their chart, or maybe they do it to avoid the moldy towel (I’m a big fan of love and logic too—here’s your weekly towel….do with it what you want! And you have to pick your battles. Lots of daily things are habits and habits can be taught…you just have to choose which ones.

  22. That is brilliant! Writing this down for later reference. Growing up my husband had a chart of chores he could do each worth a set amount. I can totally imagine the horror on my son’s face if those amounts became charges instead of credits. Bwahahaha!

  23. My mom didn’t do allowance – I got salary. I had clear expectations for chores, duties (things I wasn’t paid for) and attitude. Once a year, she sat me down for a review just as my future bosses would do later. If I had done well and shown a good attitude I got a raise. If I had been mediocre things stayed the same. And if I’d done poorly, I got docked. Every time I got a raise I had added responsibilities so by the time I was 16 I pretty much had control of all the money my mom had budgeted for me. I paid my own school fees, bought my own clothes, etc. Not only did I learn how to budget, plan and prioritize, I learned how my actions and attitude affected my ability to do those things.

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