Make A Mess, But Don’t Clean It Up

This week, all three of my kids wet the bed in the same night. It required three baths before 8 am and three full bedding changes. My first thought was that all the people who’ve told me I’m going to miss these days should’ve come to my house for that hour, while I sat down and drank coffee!

Living with three children age 4 and under is messy. There’s the pee and poo, but also squashed food on the kitchen floor, melted crayons in the dryer, muddy footprints on the just-mopped floors, Goldfish crumbs in the living room carpet, Gogurt splatters on the stairway wall, and glittery lip gloss in the hair. (Sometimes, my hair.) I’ve mentioned before that I was a control freak in my pre-kid life. Add to that a perfectionist about my house, and you see why all this mess forced me to either suck it up and deal, or check straight in to therapy.

While vacuuming one day, and both literally and figuratively sucking up the mess, I realized that life is plain messy. There are emotions and hormones and conflicts of interest and people getting in each other’s way. Sometimes, we get in our own way. I missed out on sibling rivalry while growing up because my sisters were teens when I was born, and I didn’t get married until age 30, so I had a nice, neat, controlled little life for many years. Then, Someone saw fit to slam a husband, three kids, and a dog into my existence, and now I’m getting a crash course on all the life skills I didn’t learn earlier!

The biggest thing that my kids and I are learning together is that life is not black and white, and it’s okay to accept the shades of gray. It’s okay to feel angry and sad, it’s okay to have conflicts with others, it’s okay to not strive for perfection all the time. It’s destructive to not acknowledge those messy human feelings, but constructive to express them assertively and respectfully. And that’s a life skill that’s hard enough for grownups to do!

My new motto for housecleaning (and life) is, “Anything is better than nothing.” One minute to swipe away a cobweb is better than leaving it there all month because I can’t dust the entire room. Two minutes to listen to my 4 year old chatter about her tea party is better than not listening at all because I think I’ll take more time later. Helping my kids tell each other (and me!) when they’re mad doesn’t mean that we’re bad people or think any less of each other. Plus, it teaches me to listen and them to be assertive for someday when I’m not around to protect them.

Yes, life is messy, and maybe not all messes need to be cleaned up. We can learn and grow from them instead. However, that Gogurt on my stairway wall DOES need to be cleaned up. It’s been sitting there for several days because I didn’t have time to dust and vacuum too. It’s funny how blogging often helps me take my own advice. 😉

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beth Louw
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 06:41:54

    Abby- What I love about your blogging is that you always find the positives within every frustration life throws at you. You inspire me to take a deep breath as assess my own life. Is this ‘mess’ (house, emotional, interpersonal, hormonal, etc) really all that traumatic? Is it going to make a difference in tomorrow? in 5 minutes? Usually, not. And you have helped me to realize that. Thank you for sharing! You make a difference to others and I am not sure you know that.


    • abbyplambeck
      Jan 13, 2012 @ 22:52:09

      Beth, thanks for your kind words! I need to find purpose in things to understand them, and it seems that when one goes looking for purpose, one finds it! What you described is exactly how these kiddos see the world. They scream in anger one minute and hug in adoration the next. That has taught me that it’s okay to feel the emotion, then move on so I don’t miss the next cool thing that’s going to happen. Their acceptance of their humanity is eye opening!


  2. jrm
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 20:38:15

    If you’re lucky, the Gogurt in the stairway might evolve, go legs, and walk/run away from the mess by itself- I mean it is “Go”-gurt not “Stop”-gurt, right? Hopefully, it closes the door behind itself as it leaves.


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