Tolerating Mess

When I was a kid, my mother had a beautiful hand-stitched poem hanging on the wall:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow,
for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep”

As a busy mother of two little girls, age 3 years and 18 months, I have had to learn to

Heather Von Bevern, MD

Heather Von Bevern, MD

embrace this idea. “Tolerating mess” is an important concept, not only for my sanity as a working mom but also for the healthy growth and development of my children. My 18 month old wants to do everything herself. While I love that she is learning to be an independent little girl, it is also challenging to keep her from going to school every day with yogurt in her hair. Part of learning to tolerate mess was realizing that while developing her own feeding skills, she would end up with blueberries all over her shirt or spaghetti in her ears.  This is all part of the developmental process, and allowing her free reign to feed herself will help her gain that level of independence more quickly than if we obsessed over where every bite ends up.

She and her sister love playing with toys. An afternoon of playing usually results in our dining room being cluttered with blocks, puzzle pieces, crayons, and toy food. When we are done playing, much patience is required while she picks up the toys all by herself, in her own way, on her own time.  Picking up after making a mess is yet another piece of her development that is essential to growing up healthy and happy.

“Tolerating mess” has become the mantra of our lives. But knowing that my children are happy and loved is all that matters to me.

*Heather Von Bevern is a pediatrician at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and mother to two girls.

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