Most days, this is what my daughter’s room looks like. And the living room. And my office. And our guest room.
And most days I walk into this mess and feel defeated by it. My negative self-talk kicks in and I say things to myself like, “Why did you even become a stay-at-home mom if your house is going to look like this? You’re letting your family down. You’re a failure.” And then my attitude changes and I start yelling at my toddler and starting fights with my husband, and those things that I spoke over myself become true of me. And then I get on the internet and see all these other moms who are doing it so much better than I am. They have full time jobs and still do crafts with their children. They run businesses, but also find time for the park each day. They HOMESCHOOL. But because I’m not doing as much as other women are – because I’m ONLY a housewife with ONLY one kid – I have all the grace for them and none for myself when it comes to things like messy homes. My worth gets so wrapped up in what I am or am not accomplishing, that I forget to find it in Jesus.
And so my self-talk gets worse. And my attitude gets worse. And soon I am watching Mary Poppins for the 1000th time this week counting down the seconds to the nap my toddler probably won’t actually take and trying not to absolutely spiral out of control.
This week was the same story. There were toys and laundry and six-hour-old chicken nuggets scattered throughout my house, and I was on the verge of a meltdown. I walked into my 2-year-old’s room and sat down on the bed, trying to find the energy to start cleaning it. I started in on myself right away. “Why did you even become a stay-at-home mom if your house is going to look like this? You’re letting your fam–” But this time, something cut me off.
Before I could get to the next line, a gentle whisper fell upon my spirit. In that brief moment, the Lord spoke sweetly to my soul, “Lacy, you became a stay-at-home mom SO THAT your house could look like this.” And with his help, my perspective began to shift.
A child’s messy room is a well-played in room. It is her space to imagine and transform and build and grow and design, to dress up and pretend and read and jump and create. It’s not my job to tidy and control as much as it is my job to provide and allow and guide.
It’s not that she can’t be bothered to pick up her blocks before playing with her dolls – it’s that she NEEDS her blocks to become pillows and birthday cakes and tables and chairs. And it’s not that she is too defiant to keep her toys in her room – it’s that the best part of her day is shoving a wooden turkey leg into my mouth and insisting that it’s syrup. And it’s not that she’s trying to upset me when she puts six stuffed animals in my lap, touches my computer screen with greasy fingers, or spills my five dollar coffee – it’s just that I’m her favorite person and she wants to be with me and like me. It is an obvious truth that getting angry with my toddler for making messes is not only silly, but also a sin. The not so obvious truth for me is that I am still in sin when I get angry with myself for allowing her to be a toddler.
In three blinks, my baby will spend seven hours each day away from me. She won’t be here to color on my grout, stomp play-doh into my carpet, or dump out every toy she owns in twenty seconds flat. Her play will become more organized and her imagination more focused. I’ll walk past her room around lunchtime and find it neat and quiet. And I will remember with fondness these days of noise and messes.
Oh, how I will then long for her laughter to trill into the kitchen while I am pouring coffee. How I will wish for an interruption from my work to kiss a scraped knee or sit together for a snuggle! How I will miss rocking baby dolls and building block towers while the dishes pile up and the laundry mildews in the washing machine.
In Zechariah, Chapter 8, the Lord says of his coming promise, “And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.” The promise of God was that when the city of Zion would be restored by him, it would be full of children playing in the streets. Yes, the God of Creation has revealed in scripture that in his presence and in the fullness of his perfect plan, children would be busy playing.
How dare I stifle in her what is beautiful to the heart of her King?
A well-played in home is a home wherein my daughter is free to behave as she was created to do. It is a home that is full of laughter and dancing and singing. And most importantly, a well-played in home is a home where my daughter experiences the presence of God.