Learning to embrace the messPosted: 28/04/2014
When ToddlerGirl was around one she was wary of getting her hands too sticky and mucky. I think it’s fair to say this is no longer the case…!
If there is a mess to be made, my little ToddlerGirl will be right in the middle of it. The muddier, wetter and messier, the better. And I have nobody to blame but myself.
I made a conscious decision a while back to encourage her to get stuck into messy play, particularly outdoors. I was a complete tomboy as a child, revelling in that type of play, and I wanted ToddlerGirl to enjoy the same freedom. I didn’t want her to be the girly stereotype afraid to get her pretty dress dirty.
Well, I have certainly succeeded in this – and I have to admit, I sometimes feel it would be easier for me if I hadn’t! What I didn’t really know about my little girl back then was how intensely she has to experience everything. She doesn’t do anything by halves. If we are digging in the mud, she is in it up to her elbows. If we’re in the sand, the clothing is off and she immerses her entire body. Everything is explored and experienced to its fullest extent and with all her senses, including, to my constant despair, shovelling it into her mouth. It is impossible to contain in a neat, manageable area. And it is tricky to divert her if I’m not in the mood for dealing with a little mess monster.
I have to admit there are many times when I curse the fact that we seemingly cannot pass a patch of mud or a pile of gravel without her wanting to stick her fingers in it. (I have to thank the usually annoying Peppa Pig for helping me to enforce the rule: ‘we only jump in puddles when we have our wellies on’!).
If I’m honest, back when I was encouraging her to get her hands dirty, I was intending it to be all on my terms, i.e. when I was geared up and ready for some messy play. I was expecting to be able to confine it to the times that suited me, not when I wanted us simply to potter in the garden or at the park or on the beach or wherever. It was naïve of me, really, and unrealistic. How can a two year old distinguish when Mummy is happy for her to get messy and when she is expected to bypass the tempting muddy puddle?!
Of course, it’s up to me to help her understand that there is a time and a place for these things but I can’t be surprised that she doesn’t instinctively know and accept that. And I suppose I could have opted to avoid the mess altogether, instead of actively encouraging it… But where’s the fun in that!
When I have the time and energy for it, I absolutely love to watch her in full flow; her sheer joy is infectious. She really is a creature of the outdoors, happiest when she has the freedom to dig, scoop, pour, run, roll, jump and generally get totally and utterly stuck in. She is an explorer, perpetually curious and investigating. And I love that spirit, I love watching her approach the world with such interested and excited eyes. So I am learning to accept the more challenging aspects that come with it, to embrace the muddles and mess as part of who she is.
I was watching her playing in a sandpit on the beach this week with another little girl of a similar age. That other girl was pristine, sitting quietly absorbed in building and decorating a sandcastle. My little girl was laying on her front in the sand, dragging her entire body through it pretending to be a wriggly worm or snake or something. I had a moment of wondering to myself what on earth the other girl’s parents were making of my daughter’s antics – and then I had to stop and laugh. She was having such a wonderful time, I couldn’t help but smile seeing her absolute enjoyment in the moment.