Parenting Is Messy

Parenting is messy. It’s messy in the obvious ways and in some not so obvious ones. First the obvious:

Parenting is messy because children are messy. Exhibit A:












Tonight for dinner Elias ate some spaghetti. You can’t see the full extent of the mess in the pictures, but you can get a good idea. He was saucy from head to toe. And he loved it! We partly let him get so messy because we are just so relieved that he is eating normal food now instead of his picky yogurt – cheerio only diet of a couple months ago. It didn’t help that all of his bibs were dirty, and he refused the makeshift clip on dish towel that I tried…so we went into the spaghetti dinner unprotected. Our poor carpet will probably never be the same either.

Besides food being messy, children are messy in their play. This is where I’ve learned many lessons in parenting so far. For example, while painting with water colors, I realized how restrictive I was being with Elias. I wanted him to keep the water color set pristine. One color at a time. That way it will stay nice for next time…right? It only took me a minute or two of him fussing to realize how dumb I was being. There I was getting frustrated saying to myself, “Why is he fussing? Painting is supposed to be fun!” Then I realized that painting is supposed to be messy! So what if he mixes the colors? There will always be more water color sets. It’s about inspiring his creativity and letting him explore his world. By trying to keep things “clean,” I was taking away from his experience.

And that made me think of so many other things that I try to control in his life so needlessly. Like the time I had a plan for where I wanted to go on a walk…so I tried to make him follow me. He got upset and I wondered why he wasn’t having fun. Duh. I was hampering his independent spirit and his exploration. I wasn’t allowing him to be curious.

Or like the countless times I’ve closed and locked the tupperware door so that he can’t make a mess with all the containers and lids. I wondered why he got upset. Tupperware is boring compared to all his toys…right? Wrong. I wasn’t allowing myself to see things from his perspective. Babies do science experiments all the time. He likes to experiment with sounds and with stacking things. He tries to spin or bounce or turn things all the time. I was hampering his inquiring mind.

All these things in the name of not being messy. But parenting is messy. Children are messy. That is the way they should be.

There is another, less obvious way that parenting is messy…parents are messy. Or maybe it’s better to say that parents are a mess. We don’t get sauce all over our faces or get paint on the chairs and tables. We don’t take all the utensils out of the drawers. But parents are a mess because we fail to truly see our children day after day after day. We are a mess because we constantly let our desires come first. We are a mess because our children have to teach us new things every day about how to love and explore and wonder and live life.

I want things to be messy in our house. It means we’re having fun and learning. It means we’re living life rather than watching it pass by.

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2 Responses to Parenting Is Messy

  1. janet Roth says:

    Does Elias have little rubber boots so he can enjoy that great joy of young boys (and girls) — splashing in mud puddles……. and you and Nate WILL teach him to make mud pies, right????

  2. Steve says:

    These photos remind me of the night Nathan was at Grandma and Grandpa Smith’s house in Lincoln City. He fell asleep at the dinner table and did a face plant into a plate of spaghetti. I thought Grandma was going to die laughing! The fruit never fall far from the tree.

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