Life is Unpredictable with Messy Kids
Let me take you back to one winter when I was a pre-teen. We were on one of our long family road trips to southern Texas, this time with my cousin traveling along. He always sat in the very back of our minivan, where he could chatter about video games and reenact explosions properly in a whole row to himself.
Once, when he was done with his gum and didn’t have a trash bag in the back, my mom reached her hand out and told him she’d throw it away for him. I recoiled in horror at this idea. For some reason, I’ll never forget what my mom said in response to me:
“I’m a mom. I’ve had a lot worse things in my hand than chewed gum.”
This was my first true glimpse of what life would one day become for me.
If you’ve followed my blog much at all, you already know that I can’t stop writing about messes. For those of you who’d like to understand why, let me offer this short explanation: I have a one-year-old and a four-year-old.
A longer explanation is that we’ve been through our share of spills, vomit in the car, poop on the floor, and crayon on the walls, to gloss over a few of our incidents. Truth be told, I know I can only expect more. Here’s how I’m embracing life in this messy house (with toddlers).
Tips for Stay At Home Moms Coping with Messy Kids
1. Be Willing to Laugh at the Sight of A Messy House
Laughter may come easily to me, but NOT always. Sometimes, in the moment, I either want to explode, cry, or hide. Can I get an amen?
So here’s a reminder to myself and moms who love a clean space: laugh at the days to come. Laugh at the messes that will be made, so when they happen you’ll already have a sense of humor about it.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
Proverbs 31:25, NIV
I know this isn’t easy. But I feel that God wants to give us the gift of perspective when it comes to our housekeeping. First of all, God sees your efforts and values it! (Eph. 6:7-8) Secondly, just remember this simple phrase: WE LIVE HERE. Life is done in your home, all day, every day, and messes mean that growth, learning, and fun is happening.
I know that I often need reminders that better to sit at the feet of Jesus than slave away at housekeeping.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:42, NIV
Housekeeping is incredibly challenging and stressful in the face of a messy house with toddlers. God understands that, moms! So remember to choose to focus on the few things that are truly needed.
And then remember that these moments will make for great stories in the future and are especially useful for sharing with your child’s future prom dates.
2. Kids Room Organization, the Realistic Way
Whether you have the space for a play room or more of a play nook, create a functional space for messy kids to be kids. We have two large kids’ bedrooms, but no play room, and a lot of times both my kiddos play in the living room because it’s just more convenient. We’ve learned to expect the mess, and to have some set pick up times so that before dinner, things aren’t too crazy.
If you’re organizing your kids’ rooms, KUDOS to you, mama! I’ve found that cubby storage cabinets with pretty cube boxes for kids are invaluable for storing smaller toys. We have a bin for play food, one for farm toys, and one for Little People toys.
Creating zones does wonders when tackling kids room organization. For example, make an area for
- playing house and cooking
- playing with vehicles
- building with Legos
- reading and cuddle time
- all the stuffed animals (this bin is perfect!)
*I could do a post on organizing Legos alone, but here’s a summary: We have LOVED using a small coffee table for Lego time, and we swear by these hardware cabinet bins for storing and sorting Legos.
Having places to tuck toys away and rotate them out is invaluable! If you haven’t given it a try, please do it now and thank me later. 😉
3. Let Them Try Messy Outdoor Activities
My mom used to set us free in the backyard to meet up with neighborhood friends and make mud pies–it was one of our favorite outdoor activities! There are so many good reasons to let your kids make messes. I tend to cringe at some messes, especially from things like sand boxes (the sand gets EVERYWHERE!), but I’m working on letting it go.
After all, it’s better that the kids get messy outside than in the house. There are almost three seasons of the year when it’s easy enough to get them in nature or at least in the back yard, and encourage a few messes…so let them loose!
Here are some quick ideas for messy outdoor activities
- water play: squirt guns, wading pools, water tables, play sprinklers
- sidewalk chalk of all kinds (glow in the dark! glitter! the list goes on)
- painting, tie dye, shaving cream sculptures
- blowing bubbles, bubble machines, bubble gloves, giant bubble wands
- digging in dirt, sand, corn, and more
- seasonal play: jumping in puddles, fall leaves, and snow
4. Do Necessary Messy Activities Outside When Possible
I’ll keep this simple. Any time the weather allows, try a few of these in your yard!
- nail trims
5. Be Authentic
Life with kids can get messy in more ways than one, so be real with yourself, your kids, and the world that you’re imperfect. If you handle your own mistakes and messes with humility and ownership, your kids will learn to do the same.
It takes some bravery, but share more than your highlight reel with your family or friends. The more authentic you are, the more easily you’ll accept your kids in all their sticky-coated loveliness. Kids don’t want or need you to be perfect, they just need you in all your YOUness.
6. Value Your Kids’ Special Sauce
It would have been hard for me to believe this before I became a mom, but sometimes life with kids becomes ordinary. I hate the thought of taking my family for granted. I want to make sure my kids know how much I appreciate them.
Go beyond saying “I love you” to sharing what you love about them. Look for moments that highlight their sense of humor, their artistic flair, their empathy, their creativity, or whatever it is that makes them quirky and unique.
Each child adds an essential ingredient to your family, and I’m sure you have those qualities in mind right now. Write it down, get it on camera, share it with your friends, but most of all, share it with them. When you appreciate them and tell them so, you’ll build bonds that no stained white furniture can put asunder.
7. Have Grace for Yourself + Your Messy Kids
When your kids mess up, or when life hands you something worse than chewed up gum, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s so easy to think that we’re “in charge” of our kids, and that we’ve messed up too when they make a mistake. We may shape our kids, but God is their ultimate parent, and our kiddos have a will of their own.
When you fail or your kids fail and life gets messy, make sure there is a confession, forgiveness, and then wipe the slate clean. Move right along and remember that you are only human, and so are your kids. There will be other chances to get it right.
My mom is a wise woman. Now that I’m a mom too, her statement makes perfect sense. So whether you were expecting life to be this messy, I’m giving you and me full permission to relax, laugh, and embrace the mess…especially the messy kids!
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