Sunday, May 4, 2014

Creativity is Messy

Well in my house anyway.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

I took this photo the other day of the destruction wreaked in the kids play area after a particularly robust crafting session:

Ahhhhhh! Mess!

Here's the thing.  I am not one of those people who can cope with this sort of mess.  Not ongoing anyway.  In fact not for long.  I have been known to tidy up the kids toys while they were still playing with them.  Yep.  I'm one of those.  

Having said that I am also not the sort of person whose craft sessions look like this:

My Daughter doesn't wear make up while crafting.  Neither do I.
Image via
Oh, Pinterest, how I love thee.  Perfect photos of perfect houses and perfect cooking and perfect children doing perfectly neat craft.

I actually don't really believe these people exist.  Do they?  You know what, don't answer that.  I don't really want to know.  For if these mythical unicorn families with spotlessly neat houses and children do exists, it will only demoralise me beyond redemption.  Because as much as I would love to have a life that looked like that, well not like that, exactly, more like this:

Image via A Cup Of Jo
there is just absolutely no way I could achieve it.  Not without some sort of nervous breakdown first.  And that wouldn't be much fun.

I have made a vast improvement in this area.  A messy house used to be one of my really big yelling triggers.  I would try and be all Zen about it for a period of time and let the kids just have at it.  But then?  My Zen would eventually abandon me and I would absolutely lose my shit like some sort of crazy person and start screaming and throwing things in the bin at random.

And I'd look at my kids, sitting there staring at me like bewildered owlets wondering what just happened to Mummy, she was fine a minute ago.  

All they want to do is play and have fun.  And all I could see was the mess.  And I realised eventually that because I had acquiesced to let them have this space to play and be messy, I had an expectation for payback.  I expected that if I let my kids run amok, have a ball, create a mess, then when I said it was time to pack up that they should instantly snap to my attention.  

"Okay Mummy, thanks for letting us have such a fun time, I know it must have been hard for you with all the mess, lets all work together to clean up now," was along the lines of what I was expecting.  Deluded, much?

I realised that it was all about me - my need for a tidy house, my expectation of gratitude and pitching in, on my time line.  Okay that's enough fun now, mummy's starting to lose her mind.

Shortly after I realised this I started working on letting all of that go.  It's been a hard one, and I'm still not convinced I've done entirely the right thing.  For it surely has led me to demanding less of my children in terms of cleaning up after themselves.  And that can't be good right?  I mean they are nearly 6 and nearly 4, they should be able to pack up after themselves.  

But still.  What happens now is when I feel the tension rising in my body from the chaos around me I know that this feeling is about me, and my inability to cope with the mess.  It is not about my kids or their behaviour - because their behaviour hasn't changed.  So now instead of demanding that they stop what they are doing and tidy up, I just get on with making myself feel better and not expecting my kids to do that for me.  If that means I am left to tidy up the mess, so be it.  

Look, letting my kids off the hook when it comes to tidying up may not be worlds best practice parenting, but if it's what I need to do to keep my composure, I reckon that's a fair trade.  The other thing?  My kids are super awesome at entertaining themselves, they can play doctors, builders, space rockets, do their own drawing, costume making and crafting independently of me for long stretches of time.  It may be one hell of a mess to clean up, but it's also awesome independent imaginative play for them.  

So I don't know.  It's maybe a tough one to call, but on balance I reckon the benefits outwiegh the negatives.  I'm aware I have this hyper sensitivity to raising shitty kids.  Who wants to raise a shitty, entitled, bratty kid, right?  So I'm always feeling guilty when I don't demand impeccable behaviour from my kids.  Like maybe they won't learn to be decent human beings.

But what I am coming to realise is that they are decent human beings, as they are, right now.  Perfect.  Not in a Pinterest sort of way, but imperfectly perfect.  And I am a far better person and a far better parent when I am not barking orders at them and losing my mind and yelling when they don't listen to me or do as they are told. 

When I let them do their thing, it's messy but it's calm.  And happy.  So much happy.

And to top it all off, sometimes you get these awesome gems at the end.

If you can find them underneath the mess.

How are you at coping with mess and chaos?

Listen To Guns N' Roses Welcome to the Jungle

Uncredited Images by One Small Life


  1. Two words for those bullshit Pinterest images - PHOTO SHOOT! No wonder people feel inadequate!

    1. Yeah, but with all these gorgeous images from Pinterest, Instagram and other Social Media accounts, it's so much harder not to get drawn into believing that these are peoples real lives! So much glamour. All The Time! Stylish people. I don't know how they do it!

  2. Ah Kate, this reminded me so much of my inside-the-head commentary. I hate box craft, but my kids ADORE it. Hut building in the living room (in fact, anywhere)? Shoot me! But like you, I let them go there because the benefit they get from doing that messy stuff outweighs my frustration. And I am getting better at being the bossy clean up megalomaniac! rosters! countdowns! favourite type of countdown at present is to put on a really fast tempo piece of music and tell them we need it all done by the end of the song. My son loves it but my daughter goes into conniptions. Not as badly as I do if they leave it like that! Great to read your post. And that art. Please tell your kids that I think they are brilliant. I love their work very much.

    1. It is so comforting to know that other people find this as hard as I do. Every time I see photos of kids doing craft in a neat, orderly fashion I wonder how those parents do it! (And I secretly feel a little bit sorry for the kids.) I think the music idea is a great one - I'm gonna give that a go for sure. Thanks for the compliments of my kids artwork - we're just in the process of scanning it all. I think it's going to make a pretty awesome Christmas gift for the Grandparents when we compile it into a book! x

  3. Hi Kate, I'm Paula, Craig's wife. Love your blogs. I just want to say a huge thanks to the ladies at our fantastic local libraries. I took my two children to the library Wednesday and did craft "Who's afraid of the pompom monster". They drew a picture of their pompom monsters and then the library provided everything even the pompoms and all the kids made great creations. The kids loved it and I didn't have to clean up!! Thursday a local man who had written a book, entertained the kids then followed it by a craft activity again all provided by the library even the clean up!! Next week we are doing an Eric Carl type art piece. All free of charge. My kids think I'm great for taking them and my house stays they way we left it!! Not often perfect none the less!! A win win!! Love the local libraries.

  4. Hi Paula! How wonderful to "meet" you here. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Your library sounds amazing. We did a holiday workshop last week that included some dance and yoga and craft. It was great and the kids loved it, but it wasn't free. It sounds like you have an amazing resource there. And with that and the weather, sounds like you are beating Melbourne hands down! x