Say Yes to the Mess (at least sometimes!)


Things are getting out of control in here!

It was a Saturday morning in early December. My husband was out of town and my mom had volunteered to babysit so I could squeeze in a workout before diving into a typically frenetic day with two active toddlers. I arrived home to find a kitchen in chaos: a floor blanketed in sprinkles; countertops covered with cookie sheets, bowls, utensils and bits of dough; and a 3-year-old and 18-month-old clearly under the influence of Christmas cookies.

For a mom like me, this scene is the stuff of nightmares. I’m a Type-A neat freak who can often be found trailing my children around the house with a handheld vacuum.

But here’s the thing: when I looked past the mess, I saw two little pastry chefs in absolute heaven. They couldn’t wait to show me their colorful confections, and the experience was even sweeter because they had been given free reign to decorate as they pleased.

It was then that I formulated my New Year’s parenting resolution for 2016. I resolved to stop standing in the way—intentionally or unintentionally—of valuable experiences for my kids simply because the process seems too messy or tiring for me as a mom. There are plenty of valid reasons to say “no” to a toddler’s request (safety concerns or utter absence of logic, to name a couple), but “I don’t feel like picking play dough out of your hair later” isn’t really one of them.

I must admit, the realization that I was steering my kids away from things I find unpleasant took me a bit by surprise. I am a big proponent of imaginative play, always on the lookout for new parks and toddler-friendly outings in the Bay Area, and was thrilled when my oldest started showing a real interest in art projects. But if I examine our daily lives closely, there is a noticeable absence of items or activities that take me too far out of my Mom Comfort Zone—from glitter and glue sticks, to rainy-day puddle jumping, to the aforementioned cookie baking.

In my defense (and in defense of other moms who might see a bit of themselves in this description), a lot of my avoidance stems from the fact that having kids immediately opens you up to a daily barrage of circumstances you simply can’t control. So it’s not too hard to understand why many moms, like me, aren’t exactly eager to open the door to more chaos, such as handing messy baking ingredients to a child who only recently learned to use a spoon. But, like so many decisions in life, it really comes down to weighing the pros and cons.

Cons: This may be messy. This may delay today’s nap. This is unfamiliar territory.

Pros: My kids are having a blast. Okay, I am too.

When you look at it that way, it’s a no brainer.


  1. Great post! I don’t have kids, but I see my sister struggling with this on a regular basis. It’s tough when you want to keep the house clean, but you want to let the kids play as they please.


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