It’s OK, Make a Mess

Facebook memories get me every time.

I could get lost in photos of the past. Seeing random moments of my babies, captured and returned to me, sends me off down the rabbit hole of memories reaching out to bring anyone nearby down with me. 

The photo with this post is one of my favorites. It was one small mess in the millions of messes created in the home of a toddler and preschooler. I’m not known for my stellar memory, ask my husband, but this day I can relive again and again in 8K clarity.

Still early in the morning, I had been upstairs getting my little one ready for the day; diaper changed and dressed. As I came downstairs and turned the corner into the kitchen I was greeted by my happy big kid surrounded by half a box of spilled Cheerios, an open refrigerator with a chair in front, and a gallon of milk sitting open on the formerly clean floor. 

I’m not proud of my first thought, I didn’t need to start the day with this. I’m grateful that before my mouth could give voice to my brain my buddy spoke up, giddy with pride. “Mom, I made my own breakfast, all by myself!”

How could I crush his spirit? 

I sat my toddler in his highchair and tossed him a handful of the Cheerios that remained in the box to pacify him. I swallowed my anxiety over having to get everything cleaned up and smiled. I told my oldest how proud I was that he could make his own breakfast, that he was such a big kid and he did a great job. 

It was a small moment in time, but for my child it was his greatest achievement. In this moment he gained independence and confidence. This was his first attempt at self-reliance and he was successful. 

From that day forward, he continued to make his breakfast and I taught him how to do it with a bit less disaster. When my little one was older, my big kid would get him breakfast too. With that little bit of work, trust, and confidence, I eventually got to sleep in. Glorious, I know.

It has been eight years, and now, instead of a mess of crushed cereal on the floor, there is occasionally a plate of scrambled eggs with avocado and goat cheese delivered to me in bed with my coffee made just the way I like it, lots of sugar and cream. 

Don’t worry, I’m not perfect. Just this morning I lost my mind over the dishes laying around in my now tween’s room and the mess he left behind after making his own fruit smoothie. We won’t always turn disasters into learning experiences. Today I had to apologize and remind myself that growing up is messy. 

It is in the mess our kids learn to grow. 

Only in the mess can they practice the skills they need to become the independent people we want them to be. So, let them make the mess. Let them try on their own sometimes. I know it will mean more work, I know it will take more time.

I promise you though, the rewards will be great, because what parent doesn’t deserve breakfast in bed?

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Published by Jill Robinson

Speech-Language Pathologist. Writer. Athlete. Wife. Mother. Animal lover. Not necessarily in that order.

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