A Beautiful Mess: Parenting the Wild Child

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 “Mommy…that’s my beautiful island with my beautiful sticks in my beautiful mud….oh I just love it.  I looooooove getting messy….and I love mud.”
~Lila

Kid you not.  As I’m sitting here typing, those were Lila’s words.  Oh, right after she put the dog bowl in the middle of the kitchen and spilled dog food all over the floor.  For no reason whatsoever other than she just wanted to feed the dog.  Who apparently wasn’t hungry.  It is beyond appropriate after the week we’ve had for a Lila post.  So let’s talk about some mud. 

Those of you who know Lila know exactly where this post is headed.  You know who you are. The ones by my side, trudging through mud looking for her shoes, running her down as she rolls around in the creek and heads to the open road, without a care in the world.  Can I just insert a giant sigh?  I have a splitting headache.  And her propensity for mess making is wearing me out. Here is a little post I put on Facebook Monday, and this will give you a glimpse into my life with this crazy beautiful messy girl….

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You guys. In the course of one day, Lila has successfully overflowed our toilet, spilled an entire large bottle of Johnson’s baby shampoo all over my bathroom floor, put about a jillion stickers on my kitchen floor, and dropped and shattered a glittery glass snow globe on the living room floor. Mind you, all I wanted to do was shower and make dinner.  Two activities most humans find completely doable in the course of a day. I was never more than a room away and I was AWAKE. What the freak.  This is why the world needs Starbucks.  And Jesus.  And Christmas music.  Because I sincerely can not clean up another mess.  Everyone told me boys were messy and wild.  Girls sit still and some nonsense.  WRONG.  Not this girl.   She’s busy and messy and seems to find trouble everywhere she goes.  She challenges me.  Pushes my buttons.  She reminds me to keep it real because there is no faking with L.   She’s muddy, has no concern for proper fashion or seasonal attire.  She could care less how much dirt is under her fingernails.  And she keeps me humble.  For all those things, there are a million and one things about her that make me beam.  Every single day.  She’s smart and hilarious.  Funnier than a lot of adults I know.  She’s shifty and full of sass and whit.  She’s kind and sweet and imaginative.  She makes up songs.  Good ones.  And right now she’s probably outside pulling all the Christmas lights off the house.  So, the point.  Love your kids.  All of them.  For all they are….and are not.  They bring so much to this life.  And I would not trade a thing about any of them.  Don’t be afraid to let them be human.  Let them mess up.  Let them eat junk sometimes.  Let them stay up late sometimes.  Let them get dirty for crying out loud.  Let them laugh.  Let them have personality. Let them fight it out. (All within boundaries of course. They are NOT in charge. You are). Let them learn compassion and love for Jesus and others.  Let them learn to serve.  Let them learn to be selfless.  Show them what that looks like.  Let them see you mess up.  And let them see you ask for forgiveness.  Love on them.  Life is just too short.  And before you know it, they’ll grow up. And we’ll miss the mess.  So hang in there momma’s.  And cling to this…….
“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Colossians 2:7 NLT

This. is. my. life.  I’ve never seen a kid who finds messes the way she does.  She enters a room and something breaks or spills.  She’s not always being defiant or disobedient.  Most of the time it’s like it just happens wherever she goes without intention.  I just don’t even know.  And everyone who knows her finds entertainment watching her float around on her own little Lila cloud of wonder and awe at the tiniest little thing.

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note: in this pic, it was 60 degrees outside.  60 degrees!! Yes, I could have said no…but she was quiet and happy and she entertained herself in the back yard playing in her bathing suit and a cup of water in the sandbox for a good hour and a half.  And I took a deep breath. 

As cute as it is, it’s exhausting.  Am I alone here?  I had two boys that didn’t challenge me as much as this little chick.  She doesn’t seem to care if she’s punished.  Discipline doesn’t seem to faze her nor do consequences of any kind.  She’s something else.  Something new.  Something totally different from what my boy mom self is used to….or ready for.  And I’m tired.

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Sometimes we have to throw her in the back of a friends jeep…with a rubber mat.  Fun times.

If we’re just talking candidly here, there are days that this kid alone wipes me out.  She sucks all my patience and attention and ENERGY.  I spend more time cleaning up messes, tending to boo boo’s from her many falls(Grace is NOT this girls middle name), and fixing the effects of the Lila tornado.  And it’s not like I let her run around like a crazy person with no boundaries(except maybe on the playground after school……because that’s where her beloved “island” is with her adorable mud…and it’s just cute).  She has to clean things up but ya’ll, when she drops a glass snow globe, that’s on me.  And most of her messes are on a whole different level which usually falls to adult hands.  Mom hands.  Do you have that kid?  The one that humbles you in a thousand different ways?  That makes you question your sanity but that you can’t for the life of you imagine growing up?  I get it.

So how do we parent those kids?  Honestly, I’m still trying to figure that out.  But, I can tell you that I’ve had to learn to give on the mountains that aren’t worth climbing.  There are some things I have just decided are not worth the battle.   Picking outfits for example.  For the most part with the exception of things like family pictures and church(even then, I give her a few options that are appropriate so she can still pick) she chooses her own crazy Punky Brewster looks every day.  And it’s ok.  With this kid, there are bigger fish to fry.  Like obedience and respect and a little less sass.  So, I give her jobs and ways to help me around the house.  It still might result in a mess, but at least it’s a constructive one.  And a lot of the time, I’ve just had to learn to laugh more.  Stress less.  They are only young for a second.  Literally.  It’s a flash and she’ll be a teenager….and that’ll be a whole different ball game with a LOT more coffee and prayer.

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So I let her be 3.  With boundaries.  And lessons.  And daily consequences.  And princess movies.  And mud. And bathing suites in winter.  And messes and such.  Because she turns 4 in June, and things will all begin to change.  She’ll be a year away from Kindergarten and I’ll miss her little chubby cheeked self.  So to all you momma’s out there mothering harder kids, hang in there. They need your unconditional love and patience and acceptance and kindness, even when your hair is standing on end.  Shape the character and the will, but let the creativity remain in tact.  And try to pick your battles wisely.  In my opinion, a little mud never hurt anybody.

So I hope this encourages you.  If in no other way than to remind you that you are not alone. Not one kid out there is perfect, and neither are their parents.  This parenting gig is hard work.  So be encouraged, stay on your knees and keep the coffee flowing.

Do you have a Lila in your house?  If so, how do you deal?