Yes, my living room is a playground, and No, I won't apologize for it.
As I was cleaning up yesterday's toys off of the living room floor, early this morning - because I had a few minutes between loads of laundry, an hour or two before the baby wakes up and a little extra energy (Thanks, Red), I thought back to an image I once saw, it was a cartoon image of mother and a young child, both viewing the same exact room, but both with a completely difference perspective.
The mother saw chaos, disorganization, mess, disaster and most certainly embarrassment should anyone come knocking on the door unexpectedly. The child, on the other hand, saw fun, adventure, memories, creativity & joy. Now, one could certainly giggle at the image and most likely say something along the lines of “ahh, the bliss of being a child and not caring about all this stuff!” or “If she trained that kid to cleanup after himself, put each thing back before another is taken out, etc....” or perhaps even “yep, that's #momlife right there, the #neverendingstory of #motherhood, and that's just how it is.”... And, those are your average responses.
However, I was convicted and pricked by a thought, as I picked up the 27th Hotwheel that a nice elderly couple gave my son at a recent Vendor Event. (They just came up to me – after my wonderful mother-in-law picked up my very-fussy-toddler to free up my hands for a few hours to focus! - and said “Hey, were you the one with the little boy trying to wander around everywhere?”, yup, that was me! “Well, do you want this giant tote of free Hotwheels cars?” Sure... what could go wrong? Said I, so we own them now.)
I started thinking, so many of these toys, dress-up props, crumpled up drawings, and heck – maybe even one or two of these chewed up Crayons (Oops? They're non-toxicish, right?) have memories attached to them. I start thinking about (don't judge me here, I enjoy children's movies, and they're honestly the only thing I watch when I do decide to watch TV.) the movie Inside Out, and how all of her memories – and core memories – are stored in this huge database inside her head, represented by little orbs. Now, I'm not that juvinile in my thinking that I actually believe there are little people inside our heads, categorizing and cleaning up after a giant library of thoughts, feelings & memories – I'm certain they have better things to do in there wink - just kidding; But, I do love the visual.
When my children see me carelessly (and sometimes straight up angrily if I'm being honest) throwing their toys back in the bins, muttering under my breath about how ungrateful and messy they are & showing contempt for their childishness (I'm not addressing irresponsibility or lack of discipline here, that's a topic for another day) what kind of message am I sending them about their value, good stewardship, my patience, what servanthood looks like, teamwork, long-suffering & joyfulness?
“Mom's huffing and puffing again, she must not enjoy being a mom, do I really want to have kids one day?”
“I'll clean them up later, unless she yells then I'll get up cause she must be serious”
“They tell me not to throw my toys, but look at her chucking them over there...”
“I was so exhausted last night after setting up all my cars in a circle like that and having a contest for them to all jump off the baby slide and see who could get the most air, that I totally forgot to clean up, wow mom sure seems mad, maybe I should watch more TV instead of playing, that's not as messy”
These thoughts may sound extreme, but I guarantee you kids have them, and more. My own kids have said versions of these types of things in the past, or I've heard from others that theirs have. Our kids are tiny humans, they will one day be teenagers and then adults They will be way less impressionable then, they will have traits, quirks & a more solid/developed personality. What we say & how we say it becomes their inner voice. They pickup on cues that we are sometimes more hardened to as adults. Body language, excitement or lack-thereof – impatience inflected through sighs or speed of speech, and more. I'm speaking to myself here, let's remember the value of these little souls we are raising, and let's love them like our Heavenly Father loves us, with patience, grace, love & mercy.