The other day I was outside blowing bubbles with our youngest daughter, Lucy. We had a huge container of bubbles, about a half-gallon in size, and two bubble wands, about a foot long each.
When it comes to blowing bubbles she and I have very different methods. I’m slow and steady. I gently dip my wand in the container and as I pull it out I let the wand hang over the container’s opening for a few seconds to let all of the excess bubble solution drip back into the container. Then just for good measure, I give the wand a few gentle shakes and two taps on the edge of the container’s opening to make sure the dripping has stopped. And then, when I bring the wand up to blow, I hold the wand away from my legs just in case something does drip.
When I blow bubbles one of my objectives is to stay clean and not to get the bubble solution on me. Lucy could care less.
Lucy’s method for blowing bubbles is a bit different. She forcefully dips the wand in the container and with equal force pulls it out. Naturally, bubble solution goes everywhere. When it comes to actually making bubbles she prefers the “wand wave” method to actually blowing. As she waves the wand around through the air more bubble solution goes everywhere. From all her effort she maybe produces one bubble but has covered herself and everyone around her in bubble solution.
That day on our front lawn was no different. I didn’t want bubbles solution all over my arms and legs. I was working really hard to stay clean. After her first few wand waves I started to get a little irritated and had the idea to teach her how to make bubbles using my method. Any dad knows it’s easier to teach a monkey to do surgery than to teach a two-year-old to do anything. Needless to say, she resisted my instruction, she gave me her signature “Lucy scowl” and flailed her wand around with even more vigor and passion.
In that moment, I had a decision to make. I could try harder to stay clean and put more effort into teaching her how to blow bubbles the “right way,” which probably would have resulted in me growing more irritated. Or I could embrace the mess and have a good time.
I’m coming to learn that much of parenting is simply embracing the mess, because life with little kids is constantly messy. It’s physically messy. Whether it’s blowing bubbles, drawing with crayons, or playing dress up, they are always making a mess. It’s also emotionally messy. Their emotions can swing in a matter of seconds. One moment they’re happy as can be, and the next their whole world is falling apart because you’ve asked them to wait 60 seconds before getting them a go-gurt out of the fridge.
I’m learning that instead of trying to stop or prevent the mess, let it happen. Whether it’s an emotional meltdown or drippy bubbles, look for ways to connect with your kids in the middle of the mess. It may not be the easiest route. It might be a lot of hard work. But it may produce great moments and memories to share for years to come.