It’s 7:18 on Saturday morning and I can hear voices in the house. It sounds like at least four of them, tiny little voices and the pitter patter of baby feet. It does not matter to them that it is Saturday; they are hungry and completely oblivious to my desire to sleep past 8 a.m. By the time I make it to the kitchen, my seven-year-old is already standing at the stove. Next to her stands a tall, handsome man with a gentle presence and a kind voice. It’s her daddy and I stare at them for a moment. Gosh, I love that man and that little girl. She taps an egg lightly on the counter until it finally cracks and most of it runs down the front of my stove creating a sticky mess. She looks down at the mess, then up at her daddy, waiting for his response. He smiles at her and says, “It’s a mess today but it will be breakfast tomorrow. Sometimes learning is messy.”
I stopped and pondered his words. I realized something I had not considered before. A mess today will be a lesson learned tomorrow. Our little girl may have covered my kitchen in raw egg today, but next time she will do it a little better, and better still the next time. And soon she will stand at the stove as a skilled chef who has conquered the task of cooking scrambled eggs.
I am often overwhelmed by the chaos six little people can create. I walk through the house and sigh as I pass room after room of clutter. I see toys scattered about, handprints on every window, toothpaste on the mirrors and crumbs under the table—because sometimes learning is messy. I have always seen the mess as a sign of my inability to keep up, but what if it is simply a reflection of a home where children are growing?
Toy cars, trains, and blocks on the floor will become magazines, hair gel, and video games. Baby dolls, story books, and dress-up clothes piled up on the beds will become makeup, blow dryers, and flat irons. Overflowing laundry piles of princess panties and super hero T-shirts will transform into push-up bras and football uniforms. Bedtime stories will become conversations about curfews. Board games and playing cards will become car keys and driver’s licenses. Tiny crayon-traced handprints and stick figure drawings on my countertops will be college acceptance letters and graduation forms tomorrow.
Somehow, the mess on the floor turns babies into children and children into teenagers.
Parenting is messy. It wrecks our schedules and changes our plans. It causes chaos around the dinner table and panic at bedtime. It challenges everything I thought I knew about life and makes the most basic of tasks an uphill climb. It’s early mornings and late nights. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. But today, I learned something: the mess today is producing life for tomorrow—life that makes messes in our kitchens and in our hearts. It causes days to feel like they will never end and years to fly by so quickly we wonder where they went. It’s turning littles girls into big girls and little boys into big boys. It’s watching them achieve milestone after milestone until they have achieved every skill they need to create a world of their own.
It’s a mess today but it will be beautiful tomorrow.