Practices of Parenting: In Which I Believe in the Necessity of Mess

I’m actually not much at organization. But, I’ve always been pretty good at faking it. I move piles of papers around the house. I find empty containers to hide clutter. I fill up corners or places under the bed to procrastinate from any semblance of pursuing real order.

Still, I’m a clean-floors and clean-surfaces freak. I’m sure it has increased exponentially with the babies’ incredibly gracious irruption into my world. I can’t help it – I know superficially that it has something to do with insanity-management, but I’m constantly picking stuff up off the floor, particularly little blocks, cars, and stacking cups, and wiping down anything and everything with Clorox wipes.

Ironically, I’m not sure if it does help that much. In some ways, the constant, seemingly eternal need for it – when I really put down the spray bottle, and sit and think about it – actually exacerbates my unstable mental state.

I don’t know what it is about this theme – but it keeps coming up (see previous post).

A beautiful friend of mine, Christine, whose heart echoes my own in this crazy journey called motherhood wrote about her own reflection on messes (in the midst of a feverish “rest”):

And these thoughts, the blogs I read, the to do lists, the shoulds all start messing with my head. Sometimes it takes a 102 degree temperature or a sick kid to slow down the treadmill and remind me that there MUST be a deeper foundation. Maybe making messes, the sheer fun of that, is what is most important…Maybe sorting, purging and giving away items from ONE closet is the goal for the week. Maybe sitting on the couch, covered in blankets, watching PBS kids and playing with Hot Wheels cars is the only goal for the day.

I’ve also reflected on this before in a post I wrote earlier this year where I’ve realized I just need to ACCEPT THE MESS: While I’ve discovered the one thing I have any semblance of control over is the cleanliness of the house, and though there are just few things more satisfying than a clean kitchen after the babies are in their cribs, and I love to literally plop down on the couch afterwards and say to myself, “All is right with the world,” – it isn’t enough. Because throughout the day it is a different story. I can’t go into details right now without feeling myself start to seize up. But, I’m starting to think that too much needless energy is going towards stressing out about the disorder of the house when the babies are doing their thing. I need to let that go and embrace the place…as the babies inhabit it. Let them be little creators, multiplying messes and being fruitful in their crawling and screeching endeavors. Once again, I love this quote from Anne Lamott:

“Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

I want to teach the babies how to live life fully, with abandon, and revel hedonistically in God’s goodness. And, I want them to know themselves, to love themselves the way God treasures them, and for them to discover their incredible purpose on earth. And that includes, embracing those messes that will show up over and over in their lives. Maybe this is what is hard about all those physical messes around me – they are what I am on the inside, scattered and chaotic, and to confront that all day long is hard. But, I know, it’s necessary, in fact, I think there’s a spirituality to those messes. Because this is one of those life lessons on being human that I think is pretty important: We were meant to say yes to the mess in order to be open to God’s healing and redemptive work in it.

And maybe, just maybe, I pray all of this will spill over into my life, too, because God knows I need it just as much.

Linking up with Sarah Bessey at Emerging Mummy for the “Practices of Parenting Carnival.”

11 thoughts on “Practices of Parenting: In Which I Believe in the Necessity of Mess

  • February 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm
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    Brilliant! So good to hear this morning. Thanks for giving me much to ponder as I live in my messy house today!

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  • February 6, 2012 at 3:52 pm
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    Now if I can get my husband to buy the mess in the house as spiritual – ha! Love it as I struggle with staying ahead of the mess.

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  • February 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm
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    Thanks, Mihee! Reading this in bed with the worst cold and headache…thinking that God welcomes me and my mess and meets me with healing and redeeming grace AND that sometimes it is ok to just lay ‘the mess’ aside temporarily and receive the Rest that Jesus offers to all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens.

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  • February 6, 2012 at 7:53 pm
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    Hi Mihee! Thanks for your comment. I have to confess I have been loving your blog as a lurker for a couple months.

    This post is lovely – your phrase “revel hedonistically in God’s goodness” will stay with me.

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  • February 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm
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    Loved this —> “And, I want them to know themselves, to love themselves the way God treasures them, and for them to discover their incredible purpose on earth. And that includes, embracing those messes that will show up over and over in their lives. ” Amen!

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  • February 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm
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    I love the Anne Lamott quote: “messes are the artist’s true friend.” Such a challenge in my home with a husband who loves order and a mommy (me) who needs to leave things in plain sight so I can remember to do them.
    And what an articulate reminder: “We were meant to say yes to the mess in order to be open to God’s healing and redemptive work in it.” This is so well-said. Without admitting our brokenness, making ourselves the meek, we will find it difficult to grasp the gospel and the God of the humble.

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  • February 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm
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    So glad you posted on my blog, so I could find yours. Yes, yes, and yes. There is a poem I love called “Song for a Fifth Child” – using that as a base will probably be my next parenting practices blog;). I love it so as it says “Where is the mother whose house is so shocking. She’s up in the nursery quietly rocking….So go away dust. Cobwebs, go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”
    Oh I get teary every time I think of it. My house is a mess – mostly kid related though she can’t take credit for all of it;). And I’m almost always okay with that because if I need to stop straightening up to read books, play games, snuggle and play pirates then yes, please, let’s do that.
    Thank you for this.

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  • February 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm
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    Whoa. Your first and last paragraphs hit me like bricks. Such truth. I am such a paper/clutter shuffler. I want to be organized. But I suck at it. Then, I feel a call to clear out something. It’s from Him. It’s time for a lesson. I cry and I balk and I procrastinate. Then I do it. Oh, the lesson learned. So powerful. Thanks for articulating my life!

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  • February 9, 2012 at 12:44 am
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    It’s a fine balance to try and find isn’t it? To allow life to unfold and kids to be kids (being ok with the mess), while also finding a space for the calm and creativity that comes with order. No easy task, this motherhood thing!

    Love this: “I need to let that go and embrace the place…as the babies inhabit it. Let them be little creators, multiplying messes and being fruitful in their crawling and screeching endeavors.” YEAH!

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  • February 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm
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    This is something I am constantly battling within myself. Our home is for living, not for showing. To let my kids LIVE in their house, without me running around behind them and cleaning up every little mess. But also to balance that with teaching them to be responsible and to clean up after themselves and respect their home. Motherhood is such a learning experience. I think by the time we have it all figured out, we will be grandmothers. 🙂

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