My kids are sleeping. And, this is what my living room looks like.
They had a short amount of time today between homework and church, and they set up this elaborate game during their few completely free moments. I saw them gathering supplies and moving pieces of furniture (however small). I heard them plan what they were going to do. And, I’ll be honest with you. My initial thought was, “Oh, no! They’re going to make a huge mess.” And, you see my living room as it sits right now. They did.
But, I resisted my urge to stop them. I didn’t suggest that they watch TV instead, and I didn’t make them do the chores that would’ve actually helped me out quite a lot. I just let them play.
I let them play, and I helped them get blankets, and I got “dog snacks” out of the cabinet and put them in bowls so that they could pretend they were eating from dog dishes. They crawled around in this little set up for almost an hour before we had to leave. We went to church, and by the time we came home, it was time to get them ready for bed. So, the mess remains.
And, I know that not everyone could live with this mess tonight.
But, here’s where I’ve landed on the housekeeping issue after fifteen years of feeling like I’m failing miserably. What do I want my kids to remember? Will they remember how I meticulously cleaned their rooms for them? Will they remember that the laundry room was always perfectly in order? They might notice those things and appreciate them. But, what they will really remember is how they feel in our house. Do they feel like they belong here? Like they are allowed to explore, create, invent, make messes, imagine?
I hope when my kids are grown and they’re looking back on their childhood with their far from perfect mother, they will remember most of all that I allowed them to be kids, in the messy way that kids are kids.
So, maybe as you read this you feel like you’re failing at the homemaking game. Be encouraged. Your kids likely feel at home in your house.
Maybe you feel stressed because your kids want to play and you want them to sit and read quietly or watch TV. Be encouraged. When your kids play and mess things up, they are doing important work of childhood. And, even when it stresses you out, let your kids make a mess occasionally, no strings attached. They will love you for it, and they will remember so much more about the fun than the cleanliness.
Once I had two mobile children, I realized that if I didn’t lower my tidiness standards I would never spend time with my kids. Today, it’s always obvious that I’m living with two kids under five, but the messes don’t bother me anymore. It’s important to be transparent about it and to have transparent friends so you know your mess is normal. Thanks for sharing this!
Love this, Lisa! Thank you!
Oh my!!! Good for YOU!!! Our children are now grown and gone. Our house is only messy from our messes…and I do not regret one single day that we let our house be a home for them. There were WEEKS when we would have to crawl under the tent city in the basement to get to the computer or the ironing board. A game of monopoly would be saved on the dining room table til we could finish it. Yes, a home needs some order and cleanliness, but creativity flourishes when it is allowed to be preserved until completed! God bless you and enjoy these days!
I LOVE the tent in the basement for weeks! That is such a fun picture of childhood. Thanks so much for sharing this, Laura!
This is hard for me. We live in a small house so a living room mess is disruptive to everyone; that’s the room we use the most. I try to be easygoing about it, but I also don’t want my daughter to grow up an untidy person like I am. I feel like it makes my life really hard and I don’t want tht for her. Sigh. Maybe I just need to give in to the mess and stop letting it stress me out.
Steph, I understand exactly what you’re saying! I’ve worried about the same things. Chances are, your daughter was born either tidy or not. My older two are one of each. I can’t tell about the little one yet. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!
I think I was born uncomfortably tidy and organized to most people but having five boys within seven years fixed me of that real quick or I would have most certainly been certifiable. They are now 12, 8, 7, 7, and 5. So, I do let my kids make many messes but the balance is that they have to clean most of it up (or let them THINK they are cleaning most of it up ;). I agree that creativity flourishes when there is random stuff everywhere. Seems that when the house is clean, they are just aching to fly through like tornadoes. BTW, your picture of a “mess” looks quite tidy to me! We would have socks, homemade confetti, broken crayons, 1,000 Lego pieces, and a bazillion other things scattered around that certainly were some sort of something to help them in their quest of saving Planet Earth from the bad guys. Thanks for sharing – very encouraging.
🙂 Sue, thanks so much for this comment! And I thought three were messy! I can’t imagine five boys. It’s wonderful that you let them be boys and make messes!