I have to confess… I will let the idea of a potential mess or need to redo something prevent me from allowing my kids to engage in something that is likely going to be a lot of fun for them.
Take my son, Noah, for example. He loves to bake. And not simple things like a box mix of brownies. Involved things, like peanut brittle, creme brûlée, and croquembouche.
Micah, my daughter, on the other hand, is a budding artist. She enjoys painting and crafting with glue and using fancy scissors to cut paper creating interesting designs.
When one of them asks me if they can do something related to these interests, my mind immediately goes to the mess that will need to be cleaned up. Of course, they are responsible for cleaning up said mess, but it’s never quite up to my standards of cleanliness (or the standards established by civilized society for that matter) so I end up following after them or asking them to redo it 8000 times. It can get exhausting.
I had a minor epiphany during the quarantine. What I’ve come to realize is that by focusing on the mess at the end, I’m missing the fun and connection that takes place during. Maybe you’ve always known that, but until recently I’ve been tied to a calendar and to-do list. Adding more things, including messes, was just too much for me.
Like right this minute. My son is dusting (which is awesome!!!), but he’s also in his underwear playing a kazoo. Loudly. And he’s surprisingly good. But it’s still loud. I’m in my office trying to put these thoughts together and I’m hearing the kazoo version of Layla and catching a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye dancing, dusting, and kazooing in his underwear.
Everything in me wants to scream… or break the instrument. Maybe both. My mind immediately jumps to the potential lack of quality in his dusting and the fact that I’ll once again have to follow behind cleaning the spots he missed.
My natural instinct is to stop what I’m doing, admonish my son for distracting me while I’m working, and to remind him that he needs to focus on his chores and put on a pair of pants for Pete’s sake! Maybe that conversation needs to happen, but I’m going to forego that today. The truth is, he really is dusting! He found a way to make a boring chore fun. Rather than harp on his questionable housekeeping skills, the epiphany led me to live in the moment and enjoy his creativity.
Another example. We’ve had a ridiculous amount of rain in the last couple of weeks. When we get a hard rain, our backyard turns into a pond. It had rained for days and being outside had been keeping us sane during the quarantine. Unfortunately, being outside wasn’t really an option.
Or was it?
“Mom, can we play in the ‘pond’ in our backyard?” Again, my mind went to the mess. They’ll need old clothes and towels. I’ll have to immediately wash all of those things. The dog will want to be involved. They’ll drag the mess into the house, and I’ll have to mop. The kids will need showers, and the dog will need a bath. Oi!
“Yes, you can play in the backyard.”
They had so much fun! Yes, it was a mess. Yes, it was extra work. But they had found a way to beat the boredom. Plus, they were physically active while doing so. Win – win!
Water balloons? But the blown up balloon bits will be impossible to clean up.
S’mores by the fire? Marshmallow goo everywhere.
Living room fort? Uggg! So many pillows and blankets to put away.
So what’s the point to all of this?
It’s worth seeing their smiles. It’s worth seeing them be creative. It’s worth the connection and definitely worth the experience.
A lesson on enjoying the process is just what I needed.
When I focus on the negative (the messes, the work, the whatever it is), I miss the joy of the moment. It’s true of kitchen messes and puddle jumping – and it’s true of other areas of my life too, including my husband who is quite honestly an adult version of a child. (He read this. He’s ok with it.)
When I’m tempted to focus on the enormity of a task or potential problems that may arise, I lose sight of what I’m supposed to experience along the way. And… I’ll likely miss out on lessons I’m supposed to learn as well.
So, here’s to being present during the experience and smiling through the cleanup.
Wish me luck.
Do you have the same tendency or is it easier for you to enjoy the moment?