Why I let my children make messes.

3:39 PM


They roll up their sleeves and dive in.

   Armed with cute little aprons and great determination, they set out to help me make dinner.  And although adorable, this mini kitchen crew effort usually results in one, giant mess.

   The ingredients rarely end up precisely where they should, and often a few extra ingredients are thrown in.  The sugar spills and creates a crunchy, sticky film that immediately attracts the ants, and their little hands, so determined to get those dishes sparkly clean, slosh sudsy water up and over the sides of the sink and into puddles onto the floor.  Eggs crack and ooze, flour dusts every surface and little buttery fingerprints leave their mark on the cupboards.

   And let's be honest, often (o.k. basically all of the time) I am tired and impatient and I just want to get the marathon of dinner prep and clean up done and over with as quickly as possible so I can enjoy my cup of coffee in peace.  I want to chase my little ones into a different room and focus on my work and not have mini people at my heels.

But when I posted this image last night to Instagram, this was part of my caption....

   "I told myself a long time ago that I would try my hardest to never say no to help of any kind.  Changing a diaper, sweeping, cooking...I want them to grow up with memories of our entire home being accessible to them.  A place they were wanted and needed and capable of helping.  Because let's be honest....we all want our teenagers to help but if you only start then it's usually too late."  

 I'm not sure many things frustrate me more than when I hear mothers venting about how their teenagers/young adults won't do anything to help out around the house, but then you take a little jog down memory lane and find that these are the same mothers who wouldn't ever let their children do anything, for fear of them doing it wrong.

  I know of a middle aged mom today who struggles with letting her elderly mother help her with anything, because she doesn't have any fond memories of the reverse.....when she was the child, helping HER mom.

   Think of it......if I chase them out of the kitchen and keep them an arm's length away from all of my projects and to-dos until the day I DO want them to help, they will have no interest in that.  And why would they?  They would have no childhood memories of me praising them for a job well done or thanking them for all the wonderful help they give me, even if the truth looks more like a giant mess and MORE work for me.

   And looking even beyond that, what about when I have gray hair (and hopefully, lots of smile wrinkles) and I desperately want to help them in their own homes?  Decorating, cooking, cleaning,.....but none of my children want me anywhere near their kitchen.  Why?  Because I never allowed them to be part of mine.

    And so I write this, because I want to freeze this moment and use it to remind myself, over and over again, when I'm tired, when I'm weary, to choose the better thing.  When the laundry is so neatly folded and I just want to be DONE and those tiny voice offer to help put some away?  Let them.  Sure, a few piles will end up on the floor.  Sure, the towels will not be re-folded the right way.  But you will rest easy that night, knowing that you invested in your future.  Because you invested in them.

   And they will walk away from that experience, with no memory whatsoever of the dropped socks and panties trailing behind them, but with a glowing sense of pride that they helped mama.   They were needed.  Capable.  Qualified.  Worthy.  Desired.  Valuable.

And I never want to forget it.


 

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18 comments

  1. So, so true Shelley!!! I struggle also with the mess vs. the help, and I am slowly getting better about it, but that is probably because my boys are older and actually able to clean up after themselves a bit more. Just the other night I had the best conversation with Brody because he was sitting on my bed helping me fold towels. I even left them the way he folded them, and put them in the closet just like that :) Blessings to you in all you do, you ARE an awesome mommy!!! Love ya! Shanon

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  2. Did you have this book??

    http://www.amazon.com/Help-Mommy-Little-Golden-Book/dp/0307340112

    I remember it fondly. And all those moments when my mom insisted we "do it together" when there was housework to be done instead of assigning us separate chores... well now I too enjoy "working together"... :D

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  3. Such a good reminder! I couldn't agree more, if you want them to help out around the house when they are older, you've got to start training them now, even though it often takes 5 times longer to do simple tasks... it's worth it in the long run.

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  4. Great post! I think there is a balance that's sometimes hard to find as a mom. Children also need to hear the word, "No," sometimes and it really doesn't hurt them or prevent them from helping you in the future if sometimes you say that. Also there is a coming of age that I looked forward to as a kid. My mom would say for instance when you are this age you can help me cut the corn. I am ashamed though to say that too many times I err on the side of not letting them help me enough, and I need this reminder.
    --Joy

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  5. Love this! I sometimes find it hard to let my children help, especially when I just want to be done. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  6. I read your thoughts on Instagram when you first posted the picture, and they have certainly given me a different perspective when my little girl asks to "help". I am pleased that I have tried harder to say yes since then, even though her helping in the kitchen (or with other household chores) has not been foreign in our home. I must admit, there are certain times when I do say no, since for my sanity and her well-being (ha!) it really isn't the best time to be in the kitchen with me. But today was a good day for her to help, and she peeled the boiled eggs and helped make bread. Thanks for a good reminder for the future when I will want to take a break and let her take over.

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  7. love this...and I want to tuck it away for someday when I will need to remember this. You are a good mama!

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  8. look! your comments are working! you are honestly going to LOVE this feature. i feel like my commenting and reader interaction has gone WAY up since switching!


    also i love this idea of letting your kiddos make messes. i'm totally in the same boat! keep up your amazing mama work! you are wonderful.


    xo

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  9. It IS hard sometimes, but always worth it. Thanks for reading!

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  10. That just makes it all worth it! That something I shared had the power to encourage/inspire someone in some way. Blessings!!

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  11. Sounds like a great book! I need to check that out.

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  12. Trust me, I struggle with the mess vs. help too. I think it's only natural. But way to go at letting him fold the towels! He will be way more eager to help the next time!

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  13. You're right, it certainly takes more time now, but that's what's so beautiful about the investment of your time in the long run! Thanks for reading, Sarah!

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  14. I agree, hearing "no" is definitely appropriate at times too. Balance is key!

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  15. You could not have been more right.....I think this is my favorite change I've made to my blog yet. SO much easier to reply and interact! How have I lived so long without this??

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  16. you are not even joking. i feel like for the first time in my blog's history that i'm actually friends with my readers!


    xo

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  17. well now I'm in tears. This is so great, Shelley. It's such a reminder for me, a clean freak, a million-things-to-do-so-there's-no-time-to-waste kind of girl. And I am almost brought to tears again thinking about how I'm that way (something I really dislike about myself) and so was my own mother. Concerted effort to relax and let them just be, and help, and do with me is starting tonight. How lucky that I'd read this right before dinner.

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