I am not the mom I always assumed I would be.
One of the best ways for me to explain what I mean is to show you this picture:
That is my daughter’s PlayDoh. Four colors of it, to be precise….in only three blobs. With specks and flakes and pieces of different colors scattered throughout. Plus, what you can’t see, is that this is my kitchen counter….and that this scene continues unto the floor and the breakfast stools.
I never, ever thought I would be okay with that, but somehow I am. Somehow, God has done something in my heart that makes me okay with the everyday messes and hundreds of inevitable cleanups that come each day. Something in my Type A, obsessive, “everything must be just so” heart is okay with this.
I think, really, that I’ve realized since my daughter was born that sometimes, learning is messy. It just is, and if I want her to learn, she’s going to have to have the opportunity to make a mess here and there…or all around. If she’s going to learn to make elaborate PlayDoh shapes and discover what different colors do when they mix, she’s going to have to make a mess.
If she’s going to learn to help me with supper and set the table and pour things into the mixing bowls for me, she’s going to make a mess sometimes. The table may not look perfect, but she’s learning. (And really, I think she does a pretty terrific job for a two year old.)
If she’s going to learn to use the big girl potty all on her own, there are going to be times when I find inordinate amounts of toilet paper unwound across the bathroom floor, with her standing nearby saying, “I got too much, Mommy. Made a mess, too.” That’s okay. I’ll just wind it back up and congratulate her on her progress…because today, maybe, she doesn’t use quite as much as yesterday, and anyway…she made it to the bathroom in time. Mess or no mess, she’s learning.
And that’s okay.
I always imagined somehow that I’d be a mom who cringed with every mess, dying a little inside with every piece of strawberry that landed on the carpet or every spoonful of banana bread batter that splattered on the counter or every pile of tiny toys that littered my kitchen floor. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it, and that somehow, I’d have the one child in the world who never, ever made a mess.
I don’t know how the change was made in me, but I’m thankful that it did. I don’t have the neatest, cleanest child in the world (though she’s far from being the messiest, I’m sure), and I’m able to love (nearly) every moment of her mess-making as she grows and learns. I’ve come to understand, too, that if I obsessively clung to the cleanliness of my home, I would miss a pretty amazing illustration of how God “parents” me.
You see, now that I’m a mom and this change has happened in my heart, I understand that sometimes, learning is messy. Sometimes a child has to mess things up a little in order to figure it out. Sometimes it’s the mess itself that teaches her something, and from dealing with it – whatever it is – she might be better off.
God knows that’s true with me, too. He knows that in the mistakes and the crashes and the ungraceful stumbles of my life, that has been where I’ve grown the most. Every time I have messed up, there has been a part of Him that cringed because He didn’t like to see me fall….but a part of Him knows full well how necessary those bruising calamities are in teaching me and helping me to grow.
No, the messes I make don’t usually involve spilled food, but are usually of a more serious nature. A harsh word spoken to a family member, perhaps, or a responsibility that I have shirked in favor of my own leisure. They look different than the typical messes of a curious and exploratory toddler, but are no less important in my development into the woman I was created to be.
My own relationship and walk with the Lord, for example, began as a result of one of the biggest stumbles of my life. The incident hurt….tore my inside up….brought on more tears than I’ve ever cried before….nearly took everything from me….but from where I’m sitting, I’m thankful for it. I am sincerely thankful that God allowed me to make that mistake, crashing into an ugly pile of wreckage on the inside of my heart. Without the debris from that calamity…without that mess…I definitely would not be the woman I am today.
God knows that sometimes, learning is messy. He could have made life clean and neat and easy (and originally, He did….but we messed it up and that’s an entirely different blog post). He could have made the lessons easier to learn and less painful as they healed, but He knew that sometimes, learning is just messy.
It has to be, and it needs to be okay. It needs to be okay with us, because it is okay with Him.
So, no. I am most definitely not the mom I always thought I would be, and I’m grateful that I’m not. I think this mom is better than that one would have been. It’s more fun, anyway, and I think there’s some pretty good stuff in it for my daughter, too.