Life with a toddler is messy.
She delights in emptying my drawers and wearing my clothes around the house, dropping a bra here, a tank top there. Shoes are scattered all over the place. The area around her high chair is a perpetual landmine of debris and spatters that I will probably never scrub off completely. I could probably cobble together an entire loaf of bread from the crumbs clinging to every inch of my couch. And this kid has figured out how to open closets, so her not-quite-the-right-size-yet clothes that I meticulously sorted and labeled are usually piled on the floor along with my winter gloves and a sampling of wooden blocks.
Of course, the mess extends beyond the home. I recently started taking my daughter to a Tot’s Time class. It’s two hours of educational play and such an wonderful way for her to interact with other toddlers and explore the world using all of her senses. It also provides myriad opportunities for my daughter to make a mess. She has discovered a love of painting with big oozy strokes in the same place on the paper over and over again. And of course the paint brush occasionally finds its way to her mouth. She also loves to play with the soapy water at the water table, but would rather squeeze the drippy sponges over the floor than over the tub.
I’m finding that I need to embrace the messes in my life. I need to let go of the fact that hummus will wind up in my daughter’s hair. That shouldn’t prevent me from feeding it to her. I need to embrace hummus hair. And yogurt hair. And paint on clothes. And wet or sticky floors. And dirty pants and poop in the diaper I literally changed five minutes ago. Am I seriously going to restrict my daughter to neat and tidy activities? Not only is that impossible, we’d both go mad. A kid needs to color! And play in the dirt. And yes, sometimes eat it too.
I’m realizing more and more that I need to let my artistic life be messy. If I have to disrupt the family routine slightly so I can make it to an improv class once in a while, so be it. If I need to give up the nap that I desperately want (but could live without) so I can instead rework a script, then so be it. If I need to go for a drive and belt out my favorite songs instead of doing the dishes, that’s fine. So long as I really let it be fine.
I am often guilty of half-assed decision making. I’ll decide to leave the kitchen a mess and watch a movie with my husband instead, but then I ruin the experience by letting guilt about the dishes build up while I was supposed to be relaxing. I’m learning to choose, really choose, to sometimes accept the mess. If I really choose it, then I don’t wake up in the morning to a stuffed sink and curse my past self for leaving this chore unfinished. Instead, I feel satisfied knowing that I consciously chose to do something besides dishes last night and am content to do them now.
It might seem obvious, but it’s taken me a while to figure this out. And I still need a lot of practice. So here’s to choosing messes when it comes to my kiddo, to my house, and to my artistic adventures. It’s like Ms. Frizzle always said on The Magic School Bus show, “Take chances. Make mistakes. And get messy!” Words to live by.