Say “Yes” To The Mess

Kitty birthday greetings, courtesy of younger son
Kitty birthday greetings, courtesy of younger son

My knee-jerk reaction when the kids tell me about something they’re planning is, “Oh, no. It’s going to be messy. NO!”

You see, their messy nature conflicts with my craving for some order. My older son’s gym shorts have been in the middle of our living room floor since Monday. I refuse to pick them up; he’s managed to “forget” to toss them in the dirty clothes hamper all four times I’ve asked. My younger son’s shoes are often just shy of making it into the shoe cubbies I bought to keep shoes out of the middle of the floor. As an added bonus, there’s usually a pile of sand from the school playground wherever his shoes landed when he took them off. (I’m half-expecting a bill from the school so they can order another truckload of sand before the next school year begins.)

The last thing I want is to invite more messes, but what I’m starting to figure out (after eleven years) is that, while certainly messy, their grand ideas often come with a lesson.

For instance, they insisted on selling citrus fruit from my parents’ yard, lemonade, and beaded jewelry that they made. I told them people wouldn’t buy the stuff, but they couldn’t be deterred. They made $24 and couldn’t wait to plan their next sale.  A couple weeks ago, a neighbor offered them a partnership of sorts: they sell extra veggies from her garden for a portion of the proceeds. (I’ll let you know in a few years if I’m raising little entrepreneurs or slick con artists 🙂 )

The lesson: I learned that I was wrong (again) and they learned that with the right attitude, you can sell just about anything.

Sammy and Lizzy (sons' cats)
Sammy and Lizzy (sons’ cats)

Their latest mess idea: have a birthday party for their cats’ fifth birthday. I didn’t say yes or no for several days, hoping it would pass (fat chance.) The day before the kitties’ big day, I drove my sons to the store. With their money, they bought the cake/brownie mixes they wanted. They put out a snack buffet while I made the goodies. They sat the cats in chairs and held them against their will while we sang happy birthday (and yes, they called me out when my lips were moving but they couldn’t hear my voice.)

The lesson: They experienced the joy of doing something nice for others (even if they’re “just cats,” as my husband would say) and I learned that I need to focus more on these little moments. I have a vague awareness of our pets’ birthdays, and the fact they are a little grayer and little older.

I need to embrace the mess; I need to celebrate more.

(And I’ll start by enjoying my day off work on Friday while the kids are at school 😛 )

This weekend, I’m celebrating Easter… what are YOU celebrating? 

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28 thoughts on “Say “Yes” To The Mess

  1. suzicate April 17, 2014 / 5:41 AM

    Some of the best memories are seeped in messes! I remember those days!

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 8:41 AM

      True enough, Suzicate – but I did find I definitely have a mess tolerance limit… in daycare, they would do ‘shaving cream painting’, which is exactly what it sounds like: tons of shaving cream on the tables (sometimes colored) and the kids would go at it, covered head to toe in shaving cream. I’m glad they had that kind of exposure there, because I knew it would never happen in my house 🙂

  2. Sean April 17, 2014 / 5:47 AM

    Ah, the joys of parenthood. I thought the cat birthday was a neat idea. Like you said, it teaches them to think of others. As far as the selling thing goes, my daughter could sell ice to Eskimos if she put her mind to it. It is always good to allow kids to think on their own and experience the good and bad with each thing they try. As they get older, they will hopefully look back and understand what they were taught. As far as the messes go, I think most boys are that way but as they grow older, they start to pick up after themselves more and get more organized. Ok, that may take 40 or 50 years but guys do get there at some point. Thanks for the story. Always a blessing to see what you have to say. Take care

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 8:51 AM

      Well, today, my older son raised the gym shorts a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. And he left his cereal bowl in the sink without rinsing it. (I was outside working in the yard and didn’t notice until he’d already left… it will all be waiting for him when he comes home!) I guess messes are a part of the territory, but when it encroaches into my space (i.e., not their rooms) it bugs me, probably more than it should!

      As far as the entrepreneurial exploits, I do hope they learn from it. I told them last time to save part of the proceeds to buy more lemonade mix and cups because that’s part of the cost of operation. It’s not that I don’t want to help them out, but I think they need to contemplate the costs involved instead of just reaping the rewards of profit. They’ve also earned a few house-sitting type jobs from neighbors (water plants, feed birds, check windows etc.) but I told them those jobs won’t happen until they do their chores around the house (this is geared more to my older son…younger son is pretty good about his stuff.)

      The cat birthday was actually fun, Sean. You should’ve seen a few years ago, my older son planned a birthday party for Arkansas’ birthday and we invited family and friends of the family. I wrote a post about it, if you haven’t read it:

  3. nrhatch April 17, 2014 / 6:39 AM

    You need to have them create a sign for your wall:

    “Bless This Mess”

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 8:52 AM

      We need a lot of blessing around… the messes are never-ending, Nancy 🙂

  4. Debbie April 17, 2014 / 7:21 AM

    What a cute story, Janna. Truly, you’re going to miss these chaotic days when the boys are off to college, so enjoy them while you’ve got them!
    Loved your statement,”I’ll let you know in a few years if I’m raising little entrepreneurs or slick con artists.” Perhaps a bit of both??!
    Happy Easter to you and yours — that’s what we’re celebrating here, too! (Oh, and Happy Birthday to the kitties!)

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 8:56 AM

      I guess I will kind of miss dodging gym shorts in the middle of the floor 🙂 They might be a mix of entrepreneur and con artist… I just hope they stay on the right side of the law, Debbie! I hope you have a wonderful Easter. I saw you were going to take a few days offline.

  5. zeudytigre April 17, 2014 / 8:47 AM

    My fifteen year old is beginning to put his stuff away without being asked (although his bedroom still looks like a bomb site). His fifty-one year old father, on the other hand, walks in sand from his hockey practice and leaves socks discarded everywhere. Since I started writing I have become much more chilled about mess; I just don’t have time to constantly clean. Your kids sound awesome with their endeavours, but I do empathise about the potential for chaos…

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 9:00 AM

      I try to overlook their rooms (just ask that they have a pathway to the door, and vacuum really well once a month… would like it to be more often, but I don’t have enough fight in me to go there 🙂 ) Your comment about your husband cracked me up…sometimes they are more difficult than children because the opportunity for ‘training’ has passed 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing your messy experiences, Zeudytigre!

  6. Eric Alagan April 17, 2014 / 5:07 PM

    It’s great that the boys display an entrepreneurial flair – perhaps they’ll make enough money to employ a part time house maid – take the load off your back!

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 9:03 AM

      I like how you think, Eric! I believe we’d all be happier if they went that route 🙂

  7. Kathy Combs (@Kathy29156) April 18, 2014 / 6:13 AM

    That is funny. I think all kids have that mess tendency to a certain degree. My daughter drops her clothes wherever she takes them off always and my son streaks through the house butt naked to deposit his in the clothes basket in the kitchen where my washing machine and dryer reside. My son, who is 5 years younger, is much more conscientious about putting his stuff away. In my daughter’s defense, occasionally she gets fed up with the mess just like I do and starts cleaning for no apparent reason or provocation. I think your kids sound awesome. ♥

    • jannatwrites April 18, 2014 / 9:15 AM

      My younger son is a little better about picking up after himself… it could be the age, though. I wonder if he will get messier with age. (That being said, his room looks like a Hot Wheels display exploded in there, but I really do avoid going in there. I just ask that he make sure there’s a two-foot wide pathway to the door so he doesn’t hurt himself if he has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I wish my kids were like your daughter- they don’t seem to ever get fed up with the mess. (Or perhaps I make them clean it before they reach that point!)

      Even with their messy tendencies, they are great kids. We get lots of comments from neighbors about how nice they are, so I really can’t complain too much. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kathy!

  8. sweetyshinde April 18, 2014 / 11:09 AM

    Lovely article. Children are indeed the mother of parents. Give them freedom to enterprise. Why cocoon and limit their flight?

    • jannatwrites April 19, 2014 / 12:01 PM

      Thanks for reading, Sweetyshinde! They do learn so much from their entrepreneurial activities 🙂

  9. diannegray April 18, 2014 / 5:25 PM

    Have a great Easter, Janna! 😀

    I have two messy sons (who now have their own places) and a messy husband who just drops his clothes where he stands (LOL – that sounds terrible!) I remember one day I was so sick of it that I walked into the TV room where they were all sitting and said, ‘has anyone seen the clothes basket?’ they all looked up and said, ‘yes, it’s in the bathroom.’ To which I replied, ‘THEN USE IT!’ 😉

    • jannatwrites April 19, 2014 / 12:03 PM

      Haha! I’m sure they were all perplexed about why you were so irritated, Dianne 🙂 My husband is actually good about putting his dirty clothes away, so I can’t complain there. (He has other things that drive me mad, though :)) Thanks for sharing your experience and giving me a chuckle today!

      I hope you have a wonderful Easter, too!

  10. Widdershins April 18, 2014 / 5:55 PM

    Happy Birth Day to Sammy and Lizzy! And you get A warrior award for surviving another party! 😀

    • jannatwrites April 19, 2014 / 12:04 PM

      Thanks, Widdershins! No young kittens here anymore 🙂

  11. tinsenpup April 19, 2014 / 5:28 AM

    Our mess is never-ending too. There is no respite when you homeschool. I love your description of the cat party. So funny. And aw… your cats cuddle, ours just attack each other’s tails.

    • jannatwrites April 19, 2014 / 12:06 PM

      Well, we have a third cat (my old, cranky cat, Cybil) – she’s fourteen and still detests the other two cats. There’s much growling and hissing between them. I couldn’t imagine the mess if we homeschooled (would like to do that, actually, but with a full-time job, it would be impossible!) Thanks for reading, Tinsenpup.

  12. Kay April 22, 2014 / 8:10 PM

    Great picture of your furry kids! It’s great that your human kids care about them enough to make snacks for a birthday party; I think people who grow up loving animals grow up more empathetic and caring. I could be way off base, but it’s possible!

    My boyfriend colonizes new areas for dirty clothes almost daily. Kind of like with your son, I’ll see a lone sock or pair of shorts one day, and the next it has made friends with some jeans. It could be touching, really, but I’m not so far gone that I consider the emotions of dirty clothes. Thankfully. Yet.

    • jannatwrites April 22, 2014 / 11:38 PM

      I’m glad you like the photo, Kay! (We have three more furry kids, too- love animals 🙂 ) I agree with you about animal lovers and the correlation to empathy in adulthood. It is sweet to see how they interact with their cats.

      Haha- too funny about your boyfriend. My older son is on his way to being that kind of boyfriend (many years down the road!) He collected three pairs of underwear on his bathroom floor before I caved and made him pick them up.

  13. pattyabr April 23, 2014 / 4:59 AM

    How funny and precious. Cats are cats, unfortunately not appreciating our efforts to spoil them with our love.

    • jannatwrites April 23, 2014 / 7:07 AM

      You know cats, Patty – the fuss was pretty much expected 🙂

  14. Sarah Ann April 23, 2014 / 6:21 AM

    I really enjoy reading your posts about the family. I can hear you in this one, needing to embrace the mess, but I think your teeth are gritted and your lips hardly moving. (I’d have given up and moved the shorts.)

    • jannatwrites April 23, 2014 / 7:15 AM

      Oh yes, gritted teeth – definitely! I really struggle with not giving in… it doesn’t teach them a thing if I clean up after them. Thanks for reading, Sarah!

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