Okay, before you think I’m either supermom OR that I think my kids are perfect—rest assured. Neither of those things are true.
In fact, I spend most of my days wondering what in the name of Sam Hill I’m really doing. I am most definitely not a supermom, and I’ll be the first to tell you that my kids are not perfect.
Except for Amos. But he’s a tiny newborn and mom code says you get to say your newborn is perfect, right?
But his day will come.
All joking aside, I know my kids are not perfect, and I am completely okay with that. I think one of the best things we can do for our kids, actually, is to let them be imperfect. The #letthembelittle movement is actually a beautiful one. I most definitely do not want to look back on these years and feel like I robbed my children of their opportunity to just be kids.
But there’s a fine line we walk as parents. We want to let them be little, let them have fun, and let them experience life. And there’s SO much value in that.
But there’s also a weighty responsibility we carry as parents to train them up to be responsible humans while letting them enjoy life. Because part of experiencing life to the fullest means learning that life isn’t always fun.
It’s my responsibility to teach my toddler how to clean up after herself, be responsible, and keep things somewhat in order.
And maybe you’re thinking, “but Laura, she’s two.”
But if I let her live in disarray until she’s six and then suddenly introduce a set of rules and systems, she’ll be confused. She will have years of habits under her belt and be that much more resistant to change.
So we are starting now—in fact, we started when she was walking at ten months. And our goal is to teach her the rules and values in our home in such a way that she feels empowered rather than shut down.
One of those values for us is cleanliness. If you’ve ever been to my house, you know I don’t let things get out of hand. And again, it’s not because I am supermom.
It’s because I place a high value on keeping things tidy, and we naturally make time for what we value. And I also find that I am a happier and more pleasant human when my environment is clean and in order.
Because it’s a value in our family, we are teaching our children that they have to clean up. Even more importantly, we are teaching them that we don’t make messes for fun.
If my children make a mess as a byproduct of having fun—I’m all for it.
But there’s no dumping buckets of toys and running to the next thing. Because destructive play—making giant messes just for the sake of making a mess—isn’t the kind of fun we want to have. There’s no profit in that.
We want our kids to know that what they choose to do with their things actually has an effect on their environment, and it has an effect on others as well.
And when my toddler dumps three boxes of blocks and runs out of the room, leaving me with a giant mess, it has a negative effect on my environment.
In contrast, if she plays with play doh for an hour and makes the world’s biggest mess, I am not bothered. Because she made a mess as a byproduct of true fun. She wasn’t being defiant or making a mess just to be unruly.
But kids will be kids, right? They will make messes. They will have days where they act out more than others.
And it’s what we do with those moments and messes that really defines their experiences and guides their choices in the greater scheme.
So we try our best to teach our toddler not to be destructive and make giant messes just for fun. But if she does?
You better believe she has to clean it all up before she gets to move on and have any more fun. It’s our job to set her up for success in the real world, and in the real world you don’t get to leave a tornado of destruction behind you—or if you do, there are consequences that follow.
So we are mimicking the real world for her now, with lots of freedom and room to experiment— while the price for making a mess is small. She’s learning now rather than later, and while it may seem like a small thing, we truly believe these little lessons along the way are the building blocks for good habits as she grows.