Everyone Needs to Get Messy, Especially Kids

My kids love to make messes. They’re not as enthusiastic about cleanup. At my most stressful, I tend to stand in the midst of their disaster area and say, “Well, don’t want to clean it up either! What if I decided to stop shopping for food and making dinner and cleaning your clothes??”

But those are not the sort of messes I wish to talk about today. Instead, I want to talk real messes, messes like: mud, water, dirt, homemade slime, and toasted marshmallows.

My 8-year-old came home from his Cub Scout Day Camp this week, his first time going. Covered head to toe in dirt and holding what he’d purchased at their little store, he glowed. They’d spent all day doing fun activities. They watched skits, shot a B.B. gun, and crafted. He had so. much. fun!

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Nothing warms my heart more than seeing deep, satisfied happiness on my kids’ faces. I see it when they are proud of something they worked on. There’s a flash of it when I laugh at a joke they told. There’s an almost tangible feeling of it when they’re arm-deep in sand at the beach, making castles or forts or whatnot.

We parents tend to think that fun has to be expensive. We buy gaming systems or children’s museum passes. We plan expensive vacations. We fork over cash for opening night at the movies and their overpriced concessions. We pay to attend the trampoline park, amusement park, waterslide park, or fun center park.

Why not just go to a park park?

Even if you’re not near a park or a backyard, you can still look up homemade crafts for home. I know slime’s extremely popular. Or Play-Doh. Or -even better- cookie dough.

Hands-on, tactile activities are more important for brain development than ‘strategy’ in a computer game. Interactions with physical materials help ground children (and adults) in reality. And, as I mentioned earlier, creating something with your own hands brings a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Besides, who doesn’t like to get messy?

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Here’s what I wrote this past week:

Sunday, July 14: Advised everyone to go jump in a sprinkler in “When the Summer Gets Hot, Get Sprinklers.

Monday, July 15: “Bedtime Routine Haiku.” If only they’d stay in bed.

Tuesday, July 16: Shared a quote by Ewan McGregor.

Wednesday, July 17: Recommended hitting after-holiday sales with “Shopping Tip 1.”

Thursday, July 18: “Guess I’ll Keep Him” -a snippet about my second son.

Friday, July 19: When life gets overrun with weeds, “Stop and Smell the Bindweed.”

Saturday, July 20: Shared Batman’s Mom‘s tweet about her snarky son.

Sunday, July 21: That’s today!

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Good Old Days

I spent a lovely evening (without kids!!) watching a slideshow of my grandmother and her family. My great-grandmother had taken many pictures during her daughter’s childhood, and even had a few from her own.

I enjoyed sitting with my current extended family and reminiscing on memories and events. “That was their first house.” “Oh, look! I remember that car!” “She loved that outfit so much!”

When people talk about the past, they tend to remember the best parts. They have photographic proof of the best parts, too: the family vacations, beloved car, high school friends, favorite toys, and every year’s Christmas trees.

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In fact, I often hear folks nowadays fondly recalling what has been and wishing that we could return to those times.

During conversations with a friend about my children, he said, “In the old days, people would have just said, ‘Boys will be boys,’ and not tried to raise them as girls.” I’ve had neighbors say, “Children used to play outside all day and we never worried about strangers.” Talking to old people in general makes me think I live in a war-torn ghetto instead of a nice suburban neighborhood.

The truth is that every time has its ups and downs. Even during tonight’s family photo slideshow, there were a few snippets of reality.

“That’s Gertrude*. She died of the Spanish ‘Flu. They buried her while seven months pregnant.” “Ha! I remember that halter top. I thought I was pretty hot stuff wearing it.” “There’s that old car, Gramps. Didn’t you and grandma make out a lot in that?” (The answer was affirmative.)

Boys might have been boys, and they also might have been legally paddled by schoolteachers. We may have had more children outside, but they had lead paint and childhood diseases that led to death.

I bring this all up as a helpful reminder that we ought not to beat ourselves up too much about the way things are compared to how they were.

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Yes, we need to raise our families and spend time outside and love our children so much. But, we do not need to compare ourselves to a bygone age. We do not need to feel poorly for not building a wagon in our tool shop with our four-year-old son. Whatever relative did that most likely endured hours of yelling, mismatched parts, hammered fingers, and an end product that rolled somewhat lopsidedly.

In any time, it’s the thought that counts. And the family time.

 

*Names changed.

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Sunday, March 24: “A Verry Unmerry Birthday to You,” my lamentations regarding birthdays as a mother.

Monday, March 25: “A Poem About Procrastination,” a quick little ditty about shirking responsibility.

Tuesday, March 26: Shared a quote from Pinterest. It’s inspirational. Sort-of.

Wednesday, March 27: Served a Dinner Tip about easy meals.

Thursday, March 28: Posted a quick thought about finding your children.

Friday, March 29: Advised you all to stick to your guns in “Don’t Give In, and Stay Sane Doing So.”

Saturday, March 30: Shared SAHM_RN‘s tweet about shared responsibility.

Sunday, March 31: Today!

Photo Credit:
Laura Fuhrman
Amy Treasure

The Difficult Child

According to commiserating folk, every child is difficult.

If I’m going off their actual, real-life, sighing, eye-rolling, judgy-face reactions, however, my child is the only difficult one. Those reactions, and what their kids are doing.

At a park full of happy faces, sand castle builds, a brother pushing a sister on a swing, and a group of giggling girls with Barbie dolls; my son is the one flinging sand or chasing his brother with murder in his eyes.

Mine’s the one hiding on the sidelines at the first grade school performance, while his peers sing the song they are supposed to. Later on, he’s the one who slaps a cute girl who tries to get him to come out.

The kid in a store who won’t stop screaming? Mine.

The ones brawling in the hallway after a religious lesson on love in the home? Also mine. All of them.

How about that one rogue boy who, when Nature called, couldn’t be bothered to find his parent or a toilet? He was my child, and was at a public splash pad when he dropped his swim pants.

Others get calls home from school about awards or examples of leadership. When I see the school’s number on my phone, I have a near-panic attack. And, rightly so! Before addressing my second son’s behavioral issues in first grade, he was sent to the office at least once a week.

“All kids are like that,” other parents tell me. Their child sits nearby, calmly playing with a toy and smiling and saying, “Please,” and “Thank you.”

“I’m not so sure they are,” I reply, with a bit of a nervous tic to one eye. Looking over at my offspring, I have to immediately rise and pull one out of the mouth of the other, while the little brat yells, “I hate you, Mommy! You love him more!”

I’ve tried to accept what I have, and (despite what they yell) I love who I have, but I’ve decided to accept a more obvious truth:

I actually have difficult children.

 

Photo credit: Zebras, Tigers

Good Mom, Bad Mom

Fruit Pie

One time, my neighbor stopped by to give me something. In these times of internet-everythinging, visits are not such a common occurrence. She caught us right when we’d returned from the grocery store and all the children were enjoying a fruit pie snack.

She made some comment about how I was “such a fun mom” to let them eat the sugar-glazed, berry-filled, envelope of sugar. She was surprised, thinking I was usually strict about the kids’ diets.

am strict, because I don’t want them to develop diabetes or -more likely- hyperactivity.

HOWEVER, every kid needs to try a snack pie. I also buy them weird Oreo flavors or chocolate Lucky Charms or Twinkie Weiner Sandwiches -randomly, to try once. This makes me a good mom.

Then, at bedtime, exasperation sets in. I’m sarcastic, rude, stressed, unkind, impatient, and loud about trying to get them in bed. I’m even worse when they will not STAY in bed.

At times like that, I’m bad mom.

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“Let’s go to insert random location,” I say, and we pile into the car and drive to IKEA, the world’s largest Costco, the Pepperidge Farm outlet, a splash pad, a park, or a relative’s house.

The children smile and get along. They love the spontaneity and their happy maternal parent. Things are good.

But, sure enough, all good things must come to an end.

“Time to go,” I say. I say it again, and again. I threaten, snap, threaten, pick up shoes, pick up boys, deny “last times,” and ask them if they really need to go to the bathroom if they went when we first arrived.

Bad mom’s back, and she means business.

I feel a bit torn. Am I good mom, or bad? I’d really rather be firm but loving, but that fantastical plan flies out the window the instant they shoot me point-blank with a Nerf gun.

Does anyone else relate? What can we do?