One of the "top 5 dos" for my husband and me in our parenting is that we do messes. When folks ask, we explain that we are not afraid to clean up the house or the child after playful, learning adventures.
At times our kitchen table has been covered in shaving cream, our toddler has been covered in mud from head to boot, and we've cleaned washable paint from our kitchen floor. These instances have not occurred out of a lack of supervision or inability to direct our child, instead they have blossomed from our desire to intentionally engage in meaningful and memorable experiences with our daughter.
Some guidelines we use: Is it fun? Is it safe? Our most favorite activities answer yes to both of these questions.
What does it mean for me? What does it mean for my child? Sadly, we as parents are often quick to say no because we do not want to be bothered, especially to clean up a mess we feel is unnecessary. I like to think that there will be plenty of opportunities for our kids to hear no, so my husband and I like to say yes when we can. Remember, some of the best learning takes place through play.
How does the short term hassle compare to the long term benefits? Sure, cleaning up a muddy toddler is not the most fun. However, the memories she has of baking mud pies with me and the adorable image of her muddy toes have made lasting impressions on both our hearts. Additionally, while I am not a medical expert at all, I do have to think that our allowing her to play in mud and get dirty correlates to the fact that she has only been sick once in her two years of life! Her immune system is strong!
When I think about some of my greatest projects, I think of flour dusting the kitchen from an afternoon of baking, or scrapbooking supplies covering every square inch of my work area. Those are happy moments that ended in masterpieces for me. The same is true for the messes I clean up with my daughter. They are messy, yet enjoyable, and I believe will end someday in a masterpiece of a woman not afraid to get her hands a little dirty!
So, how will you respond the next time your child comes to you holding up a worm?