By Brandy Black
A while back we did a Get Messy Challenge with the kids in which they were allowed to get as dirty and messy as they wished. I thought this would be a dream come true for our 6-year-old daughter and three-year-old twins but surprisingly when we brought them out to a muddy beach and informed them of the impending fun, they just stood there, staring at us, as if we were crazy.
“Come on, I shouted, let’s do this!” I picked up a handful of muddied sand and tossed it gently at my six-year-old, she began crying and like dominoes the twins began crying too “Don’t throw mud at me, I don’t want you to do that.”
Here I thought I would be the ‘cool, fun’ mom but my planned spontaneity wasn’t working for them. Lesson learned, I guess I got annoyed with my mom’s “get lost” drives, who plots that stuff? So instead I threw mud at my wife and she at me and we just let the kids scream on the beach, passers-by must have thought we were crazy watching this scene unfold, but minutes later the kids started laughing, rubbing mud on themselves, and tossing it at each other. We giggled as we spoiled our perfectly clean clothes. It was invigorating breaking the rules, living like kids and most importantly teaching our children to let go.
There are times in life, when I realize I have no control, the perfectly crafted plan that I arranged is halted by a flat tire, an unplanned visit to the doctor, a vicious rain storm, in these moments I am either at my best or worst. When I’m at my best, I laugh, I play in the rain, I get soaked and deal with the consequences later, I realize that these unplanned disasters can be life-long memories. When I’m at my worst, these moments anger me to my core, they make me want to throw a tantrum and feel sorry for myself. But when I think of the gift I want to give my children for life, it is that of letting go, making the worst moments into something fun.
I understand that “planning” an event like this isn’t the best way to teach them this lesson, I should probably take my own advice and let them get messy randomly on their own accord. I’m getting there…a few weeks after our mud fight, we did another one of our regularly-scheduled family photo shoots. We decided the kids were old enough now for us to brave the beach. I packed our outfits, brought snacks and coats for this lovely fall day on the ocean. The shoot was going along fine, we were bundled up in our sweaters and vests and a flock of birds flew by and landed near a puddle in the sand. The puddle was more like a huge pool of water that would come up to my knees. Our photographer thought it a great plan to have the kids gather around the birds quietly and all at once let loose after them so that we could get the visual of the birds in flight with our children. Great! We shared the plan with the kids and they were down. But three-year-old twins are not so quiet. The bird-plan was not working but the children spied the large puddle of water and all at once before any of us could stop them, they all walked into the water, laughing, enjoying themselves mid-photo shoot, soaked! Coats, pants, shirts, soaked. My wife, the Virgo, turns to me and says “you have back-up clothes, right”
“They don’t usually need them anymore”
I made a choice in that moment, to let go, I was panicked inside, I was worried the kids were going to get sick, they already had the first-year-preschool snot running down their noses and now this?! I wanted to cancel the whole thing, we were only 30 minutes in and I wanted to be done. But I let go, I smiled, I watched them enjoying the water, my three-year-old daughter put her whole body in and I watched. What could I do? Then someone came over and said “I don’t think you want your kids playing in that water, it’s sewer water and could be dangerous”
Once again I masked my panic, “Ok guys, let’s get out now, come on”
My wife scrounged up all the clothes she could find in the back of the car. We stripped the kids down, re-arranged and continued on, this time- unkempt, unprepared. Our photographer suggested a mud fight, why not? We were good at this now, this time the kids didn’t cry, I had a moment of mourning the dry-cleaning bill-to-come for my shirt and sweater but I said Yes. This is what life is about–Get Messy!