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