Messy Kids, Joyful Mom

July 31, 2015

I have messy kids, who doesn’t? My 2-year-old runs into my bedroom first thing this morning yelling about how she wants to be an artist. Clay tells her “you ARE an artist!” but all three of us know that’s not what she meant. “Nooooo, I want paints!” she replies excitedly. Yes, THAT’S what she meant. That’s why, by 8:05am, I am running my first bath of the day.

By 9:45am, she needs another one.

Almost every morning we go to a dog park. We don’t have a yard and so this is my only option to exercise my 70lb Airedale Terrier puppy. Stella refers to the dog park as “the beach” because the soil is sandy. She loves to dig in it more than the dog, and that is saying something. This particular morning, it is somehow wet, so it’s no longer just sandy soil, but muddy sandy soil.


I posted these photos on Facebook of her exploration, and my sister commented:
“I love that you value fun and exploration and adventure and education over cuteness, cleanliness, neatness, and your own ease and convenience.”

I want to make this clear, that for me (and probably for most moms), that valuing those things is learned and doesn’t come naturally. I used to have some outfits that I thought were really cute and stylish for tots. I liked dressing Stella up and taking her out, knowing people would probably compliment her and I’d get the satisfaction of feeling like I had it all together (aka relishing mastering the art of deception).
I noticed that my attitude toward Stella’s play was different when she looked “cute:” I would discourage her from playing as she wanted, because I didn’t want her to get her clothes dirty. “Oh please don’t do that! Don’t go there! It’s yucky messy!” I stopped myself on more than one occasion, actively reminding myself that Stella’s play is of much more importance than the cost of an outfit, or my desire to keep her looking tidy and sweet and put together. After all, “for a child, play is serious learning” says Mister Rogers.

Today at the dog park, I almost stopped Stella from playing in the mud. But then I remembered Miss Frizzle’s old catchphrase “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” I remembered my own mom letting me get messy. I remembered the feeling of cool mud on a hot day, of getting ankle deep in sand, gravel and grass on bare feet–the essence of my own childhood.


As I learn to relax about kids’ messes, I find I am a more joyful and laid back parent. A lot of parenting is about picking battles, and dirt is not a battle I think is worth fighting. I’m flexible enough to be able to say “if Stella learning and having fun means one more bath, or using an entire package of wipes in one go, so be it.” That flexibility is freeing. Adopting a messy attitude takes practice. It means I actively work against my instinct to stop or otherwise contain the destruction and mess. It means saying “YES!” instead of trying to manage something that doesn’t necessarily need to be managed.

And for me, it means committing to dressing my kids in second-hand clothing. It’s cheaper, anyway.

Our favorite messy paints. You can clean them off of your kid, too!

How do you react when your little ones make a mess? What are your favorite messy activities to do with your kids?

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By Kellie

Kellie is a redeemed woman pursuing vulnerability, color, and hygge. She loves to write, take photographs, play, and learn. She's a marketing specialist by day, a blogger at night... and a mom all the time. Kellie lives in Denton, Texas with her husband, Clay, and their young daughters.

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