Embracing The Mess: Kids Are Gross, And It's No Big Deal

A wise friend once told me that if you pick your kid up from school at the end of the day and he isn’t absolutely filthy, he didn’t have any fun. I have personally found this to be true.

Mar 26, 2014 at 3:30pm | Leave a comment

image
I always said I would never be one of those parents with a sticky, dirty-faced child. Pre-kid, I would see babies and toddlers at the grocery store and wonder, “Why does no one clean this child’s face?” while my mind tried to piece together what combination of substances could cause dirt to stick so stubbornly to a two-year-old’s cheeks.
 
Of course, then I actually had a kid.
 
And I found out exactly what combination of substances causes dirt to cling to a toddlers face. We’re talking about a situation involving a) mucous, b) saliva, or c) a sticky sugary substance, like juice. Sometimes, perhaps, all three. Kids are super gross, you know? 
 
Of course, being mildly Type-A, Oliver’s face never stayed dirty for long. I never did the spit-in-a-napkin thing to wipe his face, but I did a whole lot of dip-the-napkin-in-water.
 
I was prepared for dirty faces when I became a parent. What I was not prepared for was how messy kids can be overall. Or, specifically, how messy my kid can be. From the time Oliver was a toddler, I learned to contend with toys discarded carelessly in the middle of the living room, green beans flung onto the kitchen floor, and tiny fingerprints on the windows.
 
For a spell, I tried to keep on top of it, but over the years I’ve relaxed a little. We do have one rule in my house: no mess in the common areas, and no food in the bedrooms. Much like the popular gambling destination, what happens in Oliver’s room stays in Oliver’s room. 
 
image

SIGH.

 
Here are the Oliver-specific kid messes I deal with regularly -- and I don’t mind one bit:
 
1. Playground messes. I should have to dump sand out of Oliver shoes after we’ve been at the park. I expect grass stains on the knees of his jeans, and leaves in his hair. I hope we have to scrub his hands extra long when we get home to wash off all those nasty playground germs. All this means he played hard and had a great time.
 
2. School messes. A wise friend once told me that if you pick your kid up from school at the end of the day and he isn’t absolutely filthy, he didn’t have any fun. I have personally found this to be true. 
 
3. Origami messes. Oliver’s newest obsession is watching origami videos online while he follows along with his own piece of paper. Do you know how many paper throwing stars I’ve found in various places in my house? This is not clutter. This is the fruit of my son’s labor, and I smile every time I find one (on the kitchen counter, stuck between the sofa cushions,etc.).
 
4. Toy messes. Oliver makes the most intricate spaceships and vehicles -- with moving parts! -- using connector bricks. You should see his bedroom floor right now -- it’s littered with bricks. So I can’t walk barefoot in his bedroom, but I try to keep in mind that he’ll probably be a brilliant engineer one day.
 
5. Food messes. Oliver is learning to make some basic foods, things like toaster waffles with peanut butter. He even helped to cook his own eggs the other day. Invariably, teaching a kid to prepare food is going to involve a mess. Every morning I’ve been finding dribbles of peanut butter all over the kitchen counter -- that lead to a knife still coated with peanut butter and resting directly on the counter. It happens. And it’s also turning out to be a great way to show him how to clean a kitchen counter.
 
6. Acorn messes. Yes, I said acorns. They are my kid's obsession right now, and he has quite a collection. This is pretty great, except I keep finding them all over the house. “These are not merely the seeds of oak trees,” I tell myself, “but the evidence of my kid’s growing brain and fascination with the natural world.” Yep.
 
image

A sampling of my eight-year-old's acorn collection.

 
I’ve learned to let go of some of my expectations of neatness. After all, if my kid is spending all his time worrying about being neat, he’s not spending much time just being a kid. He’ll only be this age once, and I think a little mess is a pretty fair trade.
 
 
Brought to you by Bounty.  Bring it.
image