The scattered toys, the unsightly floors, the scribbled walls, the battered sofa, the crippled batman, the deranged book shelf, the swampy balcony – my days go from good mornings to terrible nights as I go around cleaning, sorting, screaming, giving up and repeating all of it until I put the kids to bed. But once they are asleep and I come out to stare at the mess in the dead of the night’s silence, I witness how full of life the day had been!
A tidy home in silence can be a home to grown-ups, but never to a child!
From 1st to 30th April, I will be writing one post a day on The Things that really matter to Children. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the complete list of posts in the series.
M for Mess: The Mandatory Identity of a Home with Kids
I confess. I clean the house only on Mondays. Mondays are our most clean days (and I often dream an uninvited visitor coming home on a Monday). From Mondays to Sundays, the house gradually sees disaster and by Sunday evening it’s no less than a war-zone and bah! all those dear visitors land uninformed on a Sunday evening 🙁
Once it happened. Two families visited us on an early Sunday morning. When I opened the door, they stood transfixed deciding if they should make another step into this house, I know, because up to wherever their eyes could reach, they would have spotted toys and several unidentifiable objects strewn around.
Such guests do understand there are little kids in this house, yet I know they maybe secretly thinking that this mother should take the responsibility to maintain the house. I’ve faced this embarrassment and judgement many a times. But I’ve come to terms to the mess and the judgements because in some years when this floor is going to be spick and clean, it is not going to hold the life which it does now with all the mess on it.
Yes, mess and children are inseparable! To children, a lot of things scattered around is fun and especially, things that flow, that make impressions, that stick to hands and floors, that are squishy and slimy are all exciting. Mess could be the byproduct of their explorations and for some it could be their main exploration 🙂
Children are capable of creating mess out of play, of having food, of bathing, of dressing-up or of just sitting without doing anything. Yes, they are multi-talented mess makers. One Lego set, one box of wooden blocks and one box of toy cars are just enough to spread 400-500 pieces on the floor. And one ride on their indoor ride-on is enough to take the pieces to under the sofa, under the refrigerator and to wherever possible within the walls. If you have little kids at home, I don’t have to describe a word more about m-e-s-s.
Give a glass of water to an adult and a child, the first will try to protect the water from spilling while the latter will find unique ways to pour it down. Anything disorganised and unclean is mess to us, adults. But to children, it is different. From exploration to achievement, cluttering things can give them a good feeling and in fact, aid in their development.
Allowing children to make the mess they want to is alright, sometimes. My 2-year old loves to dig the soil from the pots in the living room. She isn’t aware how her mon has carefully selected plants and pots for the living room – the ones that purify air, that give good vibes, good vaastu and everything that’s so ideal as an aesthetic decor. But the fact that she likes to play her happy birthday game by fixing pencils into the soil as birthday candles has allowed me to allow her to make mess of the little aesthetics that’s still remaining in the house.
Allow children to play in sand and mud. We can always wash them after the play.
Allow them to play freely without rules. One toy at a time is a convenient rule but it’s not fun to them.
Allow them to grab food in their hands. Of course, they are going to waste some food and they are going to create more work for us. But that’s the best way to help children make a connection with food.
Allow them to be your gardening partners. It will be the most unimaginable messy time, but for children that will be a soulful time spent.
Allow them to make mess, for when they are prevented, they might choose television and mobiles.
Helping children to clear away the mess they make after their play is as important as allowing them to make mess. I know of some parents who have trained their children so well to put back their toys or clean up things that are messy. It’s not only about creating discipline in children but can also bring responsibility in them and sometimes even a sense of achievement. Well, I am still an underachieved parent in this aspect of parenting and for now lack experience to write about it.
The next time, when you spring up to stop your children from creating mess, hold yourself back. Allow them if it’s not too bad. Look into their childhood for a while. You will realise it’s precious more than a clean home.
Yes, we may be judged by the visitors for our ineffective mess management skills but that shall one day become a trivial thing. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Clearing and rearranging every time things are scattered around isn’t an easy job. And yes, our house is not going to look as classy as the pinterest images we’ve fondly pinned. But in a few years when our children are going to outgrow this stage and when we look back we will remember that they have once played so much in this house that we had to carefully place our feet on the floor. I don’t think we are going to remember how difficult it was to crawl under the bed to find the Lego man’s helmet.
List of posts in the Series
Header Image Courtesy – Omaha World-Herald