Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Gift of Messiness

Today is Thursday, the second-most messy day of the week in my house. I have a migraine, so instead of trying to work on cleaning up, I’m sitting down wondering how the place can go from really clean to something off a tv show about a family in crisis over the course of five short days. It was clean last Saturday, and even Sunday, I swear!

There are toys on the floor. I understand that. There’s a wooden zebra, an overturned dollhouse sink, two stuffed animals, a play school bus, a karaoke machine, a roller skate, and an unrealistically busty plastic eleven and a half inch blonde in a wedding dress. Ok. Kids have toys.

What I don’t understand are the two empty paper towel rolls, the box of cereal (empty, too, thankfully), the gallon-size Ziploc bag, the four empty bins, the disassembled guinea pig carrier and the disassembled vacuum. Or the bin that’s supposed to hold toys, but now holds a half gallon of water and a capsized rubber duck. Or the empty picture frame. Or the twenty-one pieces of toilet paper that are scattered across the floor.

Who are these people? What in the world do these children, who are five and seven, for crying out loud, not two and four, do?

Of course, I know the answer. When I stop worrying about how the house looks, and think about what they do, I know. They play. Sometimes they play with toys, but they’re just as likely to play with two empty paper towel rolls as they are with two baby dolls.

Right now, they’re in my bedroom playing Harry Potter Goes to the Hairdresser.

Every day, they create a whole world for themselves that has nothing to do with toys or parents or big sisters or anyone else’s expectations.  The paper towel rolls are telephones and swords and people. The toilet paper squares are islands. The bin of water is a lake and a bath and a baptismal.

I love this about them. They see so many possibilities.  All kids, I like to think, can create their own space, as long as we don’t fill it up for them. We’re all such conscientious parents these days; we try our best to supply our kids with the toys and materials we think they need to learn and grow. I do it, too. But instead, sometimes, I wonder if it is a better gift to relax, let the house get messy, and let them create those materials for themselves.

They still have to clean this crap up, mind you. But, it can wait until Harry and Ron are done at the hairdresser.