I walk into my teen’s room and stop short, the frustration building up in the pit of my stomach. Except for a pathway from the bed to the door, the floor is barely visible beneath the piles of clothes. The sheets on his bed are a mangled mass, and from where I’m standing I can spot five of my missing bowls, like a game of Where’s Waldo, but with dinnerware.
Two years ago I would have exploded. “Clean your room! How can you live in this? Give me your phone and computer until it’s done.”
Two years ago this would have been a battle I felt compelled to win.
Instead I simply shut the door with a request that he bring down the dishes so his brother doesn’t have to eat cereal from a pot.
Two years ago, I started to look at the big picture.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ‘little’ things. And as parents, it’s almost impossible not to because we are mired in the little things from sunrise to sunset. Our day is about minutia.
When my teen was a toddler he went through a phase where he would only eat food that was beige. His diet consisted of pasta, toast, and chicken fingers, or at least that’s what it felt like. I was so worried I brought him to the doctor. She told me to start writing down everything he ate for two weeks.
Turns out I had become so focused on the beige food at each individual meal I was forgetting about the fruit he ate with his morning cereal, or how he loved to snack on chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. When he went to his grandmother’s house, he ate two bowls of her homemade vegetable soup.
When I took a step back I was able to look at the bigger picture. Sure, his diet wasn’t a nutritionist’s dream diet, but it was better than I had originally thought.
So if you have a toddler who doesn’t eat his vegetables at lunch, or you’re stressed out because your school-aged kid got a C+ in math, take a step back to look at the big picture over time.
That toddler who didn’t eat veggies at lunch today? Last week he tried the spinach you made and ate fruit at breakfast every day.
The C+ in math? Maybe she got A’s in the rest of her subjects.
That teen whose messy room I chose to ignore? He also holds down a part-time job, competes in an elite-level sport, and has been on the honour roll every semester of high school.
Looking at that big picture allowed me to walk away from the mess knowing I’m still raising a good human being.
And that’s the biggest picture of all.