My first year of teaching, a fabulous veteran teacher gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me and resonated in my life at home with my twins. Our team of teachers was planning some kind of super-messy and stressful arts and crafts project for our first grade classes, and she mentioned using glitter.
“You go ahead–I think my class will skip the glitter!” I quickly replied as visions of students lost in clouds of glitter danced through my head. My neat and organized classroom was not about to be sacrificed for an art project! Talk about a chaotic disaster AND a guaranteed way to ruin my good relationship with the custodian. The next time I had someone throw up after lunch, I knew I’d regret not staying on his good side.
“Oh, you’ll get used to it! You have to embrace the glitter. It’s just part of it, and the kids love it,” my teacher friend replied as she handed me a ridiculously large tub filled with so many containers of glitter that I’m positive there was a gaping hole on a shelf at Hobby Lobby somewhere.
Holding the arsenal of glitter which would certainly be the doom of my teaching experience, I realized there wasn’t a way to ease into this glitter experience with baby steps. It was going to be an all or nothing experience. Who was I to argue with my friend, though? She was the teacher I wanted to be some day, and embracing the glitter was apparently part of the territory.
With a deep breath, elevated blood pressure and a mantra of “embrace the glitter,” I reluctantly gave a rule-filled lesson on how to correctly use this sparkly holy grail and turned my students loose on their craft.
I braced myself for the impending disaster…the clouds, the glitter in my hair, the disapproving looks from the custodian…but instead I heard giggles, excited voices and even a little voice shouting, “This is the best day ever, Mrs. DeBusk!”
The classroom was definitely not in its orderly state at the end of the day, but it was worth it. Kids love to get messy, and as teachers and parents, we have to be willing to embrace the glitter sometimes in order to let children enjoy being kids.
I have thought many days lately about embracing the proverbial glitter with my toddlers as we pull off couch cushions to build mountains, dump out blocks to make towers and spill milk to learn how to drink from “big girl cups.” My sweet little angels can literally destroy a room in under three minutes (hence their nickname, the twin-nadoes).
Overlooking these messes does not come naturally and still causes my blood pressure to rise. It is still a daily battle to see the mess as the sign of happy kids rather than a failure on my part to keep a neat home. Maintaining a house and children to look like a magazine spread from the pages of Southern Living is not only unrealistic (and incredibly stressful) but also prevents our kids from being kids!
Allowing my family to play and live in a relaxed environment is something I believe is a secret to a happy home. It teaches my girls and reminds me it’s ok to make messes and to let go of perfection. It helps me to enjoy being home and to keep perspective on what’s most important in life. Hopefully, too, it will help me to raise children who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
So go ahead–break out the play dough and finger paint on a regular basis, encourage your kids to pull out the slimy insides from the pumpkin and to dig for worms in the garden, and roll up your sleeves and join them!
The days of perfect houses and glitter-free living will inevitably return (if you want them to, that is–I personally hope to be glitter-tastic for the long haul) when these sweet little ones grow up and move into their own places one day. In the meantime, embrace the glitter, the clutter and the chaos and let your kids enjoy every opportunity to do the same. Stay messy, my friends!