The other day, Nancy (3) asked to go into the garden.
Ok, I said. I was watching her like a hawk. Like one of the guards in a prison like Orange is the New Black. “Don’t touch this, don’t touch that!” “You’ll get MESSY!” I threatened, panicky and nervous that I would have to clean up, re-dress, re-change.
It’s the same when she gets her felt tips out, I feel my blood pressure rising.
“Put the caps on!” “Write on the paper!” “Argh you’ll do something in a minute to ruin my carpet!”
She got Play-doh for her birthday, which I hid.
She started to get funny about dirt, or food or pen on her hands, wanting to wash it off instantly.
Then it hit me: Where’s the fun in this?
She needs to explore, and learn, and get messy. She shouldn’t be afraid of getting messy, of having dirt on her hands. She should be playing in the mud, picking up worms, learning about the world around her. At nursery she is always rolling around in shaving foam and bits of pasta. Why can’t I do the same with her at home? What’s my problem?
Because it is my problem. I am stopping her doing things because I am worried I will have to clean up or sort out the mess. Granted, I don’t want her painting with Nutella all over my walls, and there has to be limits, but can’t I do some messy activities with her?
So, I embraced it. I set her free into the Garden, and I went with her. I took a big deep breath and I let her get muddy, and messy.
We planted seeds and dug up mud in the flower bed. We watered the garden. We spotted worms and watered the garden a bit more. She had a fantastic time. I had a good time. Yes, she got a bit muddy, yes our hands were filthy, but when we came in we stripped off and we washed our hands, and that was it, done. It felt good to have been out in the fresh air, to see her face as we explored the garden and when she found things such as the worm. Her face when she tried to weed my flowers and her delight at watering the garden.
Then another day, she found a big tub of crafty bits I’d bought ages ago, and asked if we could use them. I must admit my heart sank a little.
“Nnnnnno…” was on my lips, but then I stopped myself. I said “Yes” instead and we got out the crafts and we got out the glue and we got out the glitter and we made a little picture. And it was good, and fun. It was a bit messy, and things got everywhere, and at times I felt like saying “stop!” but she loved it. I loved it.
Ah, and then the Playdoh. I relented and got out the playdoh. We got out some cookie cutters, a fork, anything to make some pretty prints and marks in the play doh. We made pretend food and we made wriggly worms to her delight. She ‘fed’ her toy baby playdoh pasta, which was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. I tried not to think about the state of my floor or the inevitability that a minute speck of playdoh will soon reach my carpet and that’ll be it.
I am starting to say Yes, I am starting to embrace the mess, embrace the fun. It means that we have spent quite a few hours now doing some lovely things together, with no TV, no ipad. It has been positive, and happy and I haven’t been moany old mum who’s scared of a pair of muddy jeans.
I clean up, happy that we have spent fun time together, that we have made (sometimes quite literally) some memories. Every mark on my carpet has a story to tell, every pen mark I wash from my hands remains there invisible, a mark of a time I spent playing with my girl. I quite enjoy it really. Apart from touching worms, coz that’s a bit icky.
Thank you to Emily @ emilytealady.com (http://emilytealady.com/embracing-the-mess/) for this blog.