"Mama, life's too short. Let's paint a tree." These were the words of my Madilyn, three years ago, who is always reminding me of what is important in motherhood.
I like my house to be clean and in order. I like it when I have a candle lit at the end of the day, all the dishes are put away, the playroom is picked up and the pillows are on the couch in the "right" place. It makes me feel like I am in control of my domain. Since becoming a stay-at-home mama over six years ago, I spend 99% of my time in my home. If it is a total mess, I become a total mess. It's that simple.
Kids make a mess. Totally. I wasn't prepared for this part of parenthood. Our playroom used to be my office. I used to write in there. I had all my nutrition books lined up in order. I had cute decorations on my shelves. Now, the room is filled with baby dolls, Play-Doh, kids books, paints, Legos, and Barbies... and usually, it is a total mess.
Most of the time, I really don't think my girls are trying to make a mess. They are exploring. They are trying to figure out how to paint, how to mix colors, how to dip the brush in the water and make the color "less bright," as they call it. I try to remember that when the brown paint water spills all over the carpet or when they dip their elbows in bright red paint, they are really not trying to make a mess. Their intentions are not to have me clean all day. Their intentions are to explore, create and have fun.
Learning to accept the mess has been an adjustment for me. I see the mess before it even comes. I see spilled paints, extra laundry and carpet stains. Choosing motherhood means choosing to clean up messes and ALOT of them. Avoiding messes leads me to say "No" way more than I want to. I want to be that "cool" mom that does "cool" things with my kiddos. That kind of mom that lets the kids play in the rain, finger paint, play with worms in the dirt, climb trees and... well, be a kid.
I have started saying "Yes" more and it has changed everything.
The other day, Juliana was napping and Madilyn asked me if we could paint. So, I got really excited about it and said, "YES! Do you want to paint outside?" Her eyes lit up and she screamed "YEEEEEEES mama, thank you. You are the best!" Seriously?! I know! She melts my heart. We grabbed a blanket and her paints and paper and I asked her, "What should we paint? Do you want to paint some trees?" I meant paint trees on paper but she interpreted it as painting our tree in the front yard. At first I said "No" (like I normally automatically do) and I saw the disappointment in her eyes. Then, I said to myself "Mama, say Yes" and I said to Madilyn, "You know what, that tree deserves some decoration. Let's do it." She says to me "Life's too short mama. Let's paint a tree." Yep, my 3-year old said that to me. She has heard me say "Life's too short" many times before but this was the first time she has used the expression and said it to me. She was right. Life is too short and why not paint the tree? So, we did and it was one of those afternoons I will never forget.
20 years from now I won't remember all of these messes but I sure will remember that day we painted our tree. I will remember the look of excitement in her eyes when I said "Yes," the way she mixed the colors of paint and how she decided what colors the tree "needed," and the way the paint dripped in the grass and how she walked in it with her bare feet. She was exploring, creating and being a kid.
Sure, I say "No" to her alot but I have decided to try my best to say "Yes" in five areas:
Mama, say "Yes" to listening. My Madilyn sure can talk. Recently, I have tried my hardest to really listen to her. Listening to her reading to her baby dolls, see what interests her, see how she interacts with Juliana and our dog, Charli. It is amazing how much she is learning just by watching us and she watches everything! I do love quiet. I love that part of the nighttime when the kids are asleep and I get a few hours to read, or watch a show, or write. I treasure the quiet times. Sometimes when my girls are talking up a storm it takes everything in my being to not say, "BE QUIET for 5 minutes!" I know, I have been there. I am trying to say "Yes" to listening. Before I know it they will be talking about dating. Oh my.
Mama, say "Yes" to helping you in the kitchen. Sure, it may be quicker for you to pop dinner in the microwave but imagine all that you can teach your kids if you show them around the kitchen. Let your kids snap the pasta noodles, husk corn on the cob, and stir the soup (with your guidance of course). Let them help you make cinnamon pancakes on Sunday morning. Teach them what foods you are eating, where they come from, how they grow, and how to prepare them. I have found that the more involved Madilyn is with meal preparation the more willing she is to try new foods. She is proud of herself for helping. Some of my favorite memories of my girls will be in the kitchen. I remember Madilyn feeding Juliana some of her first bites of real food. At first I would say "No" thinking that I can do it cleaner and quicker but why? Even though it is WAY messier, they both have fun as I hear them both giggling as I wash dishes. Letting them try new things in the kitchen is more important than trying to keep my floor clean.... again.
Mama, say "Yes" to independence. Within reason, of course. my girls thrive when they are doing "big girl" things like pulling their own luggage bags, helping mom unload the dishwasher and helping take our dog Charli for a walk. I remember the joy in Madilyn's eyes when I used to ask her to help get mommy diapers and wipes for sissy. Such fun memories. I have a hard time with this. It is easier to just tie Juliana's shoes rather than let her spend 10 minutes trying to do it herself when we are running late. "Mama slow down, the store can wait" I tell myself all the time. Slow down. Life can wait.
Mama, say "Yes" to creativity. This includes multiple wardrobe changes throughout the day in the Moore household. We play wedding, restaurant, mommy, paint store... We paint ALOT. We also paint trees. Of course, use washable paint so even if there is a mess, it is easy to clean up. It's worth it.
Mama, say "Yes" to learning. Kids crave knowledge. They want to know everything. We love to do a bunch of school worksheets at home and play school. If I had a dollar for every question my girls asked me in a day, I would be a millionaire. Sometimes, I just want to ignore all the questions. I crave silence. I am learning to embrace the questions and make them a learning experience. "Mama, why are their clouds in the sky?" "Why did that policeman pull over that car?" "Are cookies healthy?" "Can I walk Charli today?" "How old is Cinderella?" "Do you like raccoons, mom?" "Mom, why are you not wearing makeup today?" Someday, I will miss this. I know.
To my Madilyn, thank you for that day we painted our tree. It is a day that I will never forget. My wish for you is that you always find the joy in saying "Yes" to whatever life throws at you. You taught mommy many lessons that day. I love you my sweet girl.
What can you say "Yes" to today?
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