a favorite


This is one of my all-time favorite photos. It was taken in November 2011. The little boy was five. I love hanging out with five year olds. 

I remember snapping the photo because I thought it was funny. The mess of invention and creation and play abounds, and there he is with a stack of books. The mess didn’t keep him from relaxing. 

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about keeping a clean house. If you live with four children, you know this is a waste of time.

Now they are big kids and the house stays tidy for days on end because they are only here to eat, shower, sleep, eat (more), and shower (again). 

I”m glad I snapped this picture, even though I thought I should be embarrassed by the mess. Looking back, now that I’m older and miss living with little kids, I know it’s not worth being embarrassed by that mess.

The mess is beautiful.
The mess is glorious.
The mess is evidence that we lived in a way that let them be little. 


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  1. This is what the home of anyone with children looks like. I worked hard while our daughter was small to clean up the mess each weekend, but during the week when we were all busy with jobs and school, I just let it pile up.

    Our grandchildren just left after a few days’ visit, and our house was turned topsy-turvy because they need lots of space to do the rough and tumble stuff that kids do. I left it that way the whole time they were here, knowing full well I would have forever to put it back in order to suit me. I want them to come and have fun.

    My mother-in-law would not let our daughter make a mess in her home. Everything had to be just right and in its place. Our daughter did not like to visit and so we didn’t. I remember telling the mother-in-law once, “when she is grown and gone, you can have your house any way you want it, but don’t be surprised if nobody wants to come visit you.”

    • Oh, thank you! I want to be like you…and embrace the beautiful mess of humans…tiny & otherwise! What a gift you gave your children and grandchildren.

  2. Learning to live with a mess might be a question of perspective. Mess as a sign of untidiness or as a sign of active and creative life? It’s also a question of priorities. Let the kids be kids or worry about the looks? I had tolerance for kid mess. I struggle with the teenage room mess. Still working on how to not react and let her be. Thank you for this post.

    • When our daughter was a teenager her room was quite messy, so much so that I was unable to walk into the room for all of the stuff on the floor. It could have driven me crazy. Instead I closed the door and insisted she keep it closed unless it was tidy. It worked for us until she went away to college. Her room is not the guest room where her children spend time when they come to visit us.

  3. It’s what living life looks like! I walked in my son’s room this morning and found everything neat and tidy. It made me a little sad. This picture holds adventure and magic.

  4. The beauty of having grandchildren is I do not worry about mess at all. The mess can always be cleaned up, but the special creative play time can never be replaced.