Embrace the chaos. I can’t tell you how often I find myself saying that, whether it’s to myself (usually), offhandedly to random strangers who stop me in the middle of a shopping trip to inquire how I “do it,” or to someone who is overwhelmed by children, be they mine or their own: embrace the chaos.
Now, there’s a real limit to that. I’m not suggesting a lack of discipline, or a messy house, crazy noise levels, or food-streaked faces. I’m not saying that we should abandon order. But with three under three–with small children, period, perhaps–there will be chaos sometimes, and sometimes you’ve got to just learn to roll with the punches and keep your eyes on eternity. God made kids. Then He gave us these kids. He didn’t give them grown-up brains or grown-up emotions or grown-up self-cleaning abilities. This is life, and it is good, in a tainted-by-sin-but-still-in-His-image kind of way.
(If I were a more laid-back person naturally, my message to myself might be find the order or something like that, but I’m the sort of person who over-stresses and gets wound up about the little things. Chaos is not my desired cup of tea, although this is not to be confused with neatness, which is another issue for another post.)
There’s one giant, simple lesson that has come out of this for me: messes usually look bad, but don’t really take long to clean.
(Or: messes aren’t worth the emotional investment and stress that I attach to them sometimes.)
Let’s say one-year-old grabs the rice off the counter and upends the entire box onto the floor. It’s a disaster, it’s loud, and if I see it happening and can’t stop it, there’s a lot of despair that passes through my mind as I watch the sea of white scattering over the floor. A lot of hideous, ungodly, selfish despair.
And guess what? The whole mess can be cleaned up in well under five minutes, and the financial damage is probably less than that candy bar I just ate. If you stop to think about it, there’s very, very few messes that a watched toddler can make that can’t be cleaned up in less than five minutes. The big unearthly messes are pretty flukey, or else I’m not doing the “mommy” job very well. (Or, perhaps, the house hasn’t been properly outfitted for toddlers.)
I can’t tell you how much energy I waste being stressed out about messes, literal or metaphorical, that are pretty easy to clean back up. I’m finding that it really helps me to take a millisecond to step back, evaluate how much sacrifice is really required to “fix it,” and base my response on that rather than what the mess looks like itself.
So, when those giant-looking messes unfold before my eyes, I try just to take a deep breath, evaluate the damage, and plod along to clean it up. Hopefully without getting unjustly angry or selfishly snippy towards the offending child in the process.
It might be a little bit of chaos, but it’s usually going to be okay, and sometimes, it might even be fun.