Confessions of a Neat Freak Dad

BY SERGE BIELANKO

Serge Bielanko's website is sergebielanko.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

 

This piece was originally published on Babble.com and has been reprinted with permission. 


I have a confession to make: I can’t stop straightening up after my kids. I’m just one of those people, I guess. I’m not proud of it really, but then again, I don’t see where it’s hurting anyone. Well, except me, since lately I have to stop myself from picking up toys that my kids are still playing with …

I don’t know where I got this thing from — this obsessive-compulsive habit of constant cleaning and tidying up. It’s been here for a long time. The thing is, before I had kids, it was just so much more manageable. I’m a neat freak and I own that, but because of that, I rarely ever made a mess in the apartments or houses I lived in before the rug rats arrived.

Kids changed all that, of course.

They are slobs by nature, and it isn’t there fault. Children dig touching things and pulling crap off shelves and rooting around in drawers. But kids do not dig returning rooms to their previous condition. Sometimes I even wonder if my own kids actually prefer the feeling of having to wade through an avalanche of fallen Legos and scattered books rather than being able to cut across a floor with no obstacles.

I just don’t know. No one really does.

The only thing certain to me is that I like to keep my joint looking like no one even lives up in here except for an old anal man who doesn’t even read books anymore because he doesn’t want to mess with the spectacular neatness of his bookshelves. And my kids are just kids and that means they seem to prefer living in an indoor junkyard.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: teach your kids to clean up after themselves, fool!

Ha. I get that. I really do. And I assure you that this isn’t the problem at all. I’m a single dad now and my three kids are 6, 4, and 1, and most of the time the older two help me straighten things up when I ask them to. But therein lies my dilemma, you see.

I can’t seem to stop myself from always cleaning up after them. Even when they’re eating lunch, I’m hovering around like a bad waiter trying to get in there to swab away a dab of noodle or a spot of chocolate milk from the table. I try to do this with as much subtly and secret grace as I possibly can, though. I don’t want them to inherit this neurotic affliction, man. I want them to be chilled-out masters of Zen — I seriously do.

But I am who I am.

It’s weird because with my car, it’s a whole different thing. I’m way more relaxed with the little messes they create in there. But not in the house. Oh, no no no.

Post-divorce, my little rented house isn’t perfect, you can trust me on that one. I have a couch splattered with Popsicle stains; my area rugs are a fine woven mix of cheap fabric and pulverized corn chip crumbs at this point. So it’s not like I’m this haughty perfectionist, I assure you. But for whatever reason, lately I’m finding myself having to admit that I’m a funny kind of dad when it comes to the everyday messes my kids make.

When it comes to cleaning up after my gang, I try to be cool, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. I mean, I’m the dude hanging out under the high chair as little Charlie carelessly tosses a few wads of pancake off of his tray. And I’m the dude who gets off on catching them like a long fly ball before they ever even hit the floor.

I think I’m a pretty awesome dad overall, but hey, none of us are perfect, right? We all have things we wish we could change about ourselves that eventually we just have to learn to accept.

So kids, break out the Play-Doh and I’ll bust out my dustpan and broom. We will get through this together. We have to. Because I love you three so damn much, even when you’re messing stuff up. Even when I’m just a neat freak daddy who’s a little bit crazy.

 

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