Is the joy really in the journey?
What price are you willing to pay for letting creativity flow? In other words, what messes are you willing to put up with?
This is an ode to my mother.
I shared earlier how Mom was gifted in knitting beautiful sweaters, clothing, and afghans. But I don’t know how she found the time.
I think her other main area of creativity was managing everyone’s schedule effectively. Keeping us on track.
She had four kids to contend with: meals, schedules, piano lessons, sports, groceries, errands, housekeeping, etc. The stuff moms do. In addition, she had a vegetable garden and played the piano and organ for church. When we were older, she worked part-time as a dental hygienist.
She also put up with antics from our 4-H animals: rabbits, goats, dogs, and horses. Plus a million barn cats.
By antics, I mean, one time our horse escaped and ended up walking downtown, seven miles away. When Dad was out of town.
Our busy household didn’t leave her much time for anything else until her later years. Then she took up painting and taught literacy.
But when we were little, every evening, at the end of a day’s work, if she wasn’t knitting, she had a book in her hands. As a reading role model, she loved biographies and the Bible. She also read to us.
But something else Mom did with us kids was KEY. She let us make messes.
For example, my sister and I (from ages 6-11) loved to build dollhouses. We saved every cardboard box. We hoarded Scotch tape, empty spools, toothpicks, ribbons, fabric scraps, matchboxes, toothpaste caps. Anything that could be turned into miniature household items.
We had more fun creating tiny curtains, rugs, and furniture than playing with our Liddle Kiddles and Barbies who occupied them. They each lived in a different scale. So we built shoebox-size rooms for Kiddles–including apartments–and bigger ones for Barbies.
Once we created an entire village, complete with dentist office, park, and library. Later on, my brothers had a train track and countryside village the size of a dining room.
Of course, this all created a mess that spilled into many rooms.
Our three-bedroom ranch house had a huge basement where we played house, store, and school. Full of secondhand furniture, the basement belonged to us kids. And to the neighbors.
We constantly re-arranged furniture depending on our daily activities: hide and seek, magic shows, a spook house, birthday parties, shuffle board, and more. We only had to clean it up twice a year when we begrudgingly let my parents have their grown-up parties downstairs.
We took our domain for granted. But later, when I entered motherhood, I wanted control over my household. Then I realized how difficult it was to give a big space over to the chaotic whims of childhood.
I once read a book about the importance of giving kids space and time. Not structuring all their time or over-doing the rules.
It stressed the importance of letting kids experience things themselves–whether art, work, or play. And how to respond to their efforts. Maybe Mom had been a consultant.
The bottom line: creativity needs space–time and place–to grow. With little adult direction and imposition.
Both Mom and Dad had gardens and beautiful landscaping. But we kids were a garden Mom planted with just the right amount of water and dirt. She pulled weeds now and then, then stepped back to let us bask in the sunshine, come what may.
Which meant that Mom said YES when she saw it was good for us.
“Mom, can we have a pool party with all the neighbors?” YES.
“Mom, can we have a carnival?” YES.
“Mom, can we have a circus?” YES.
Maybe this wasn’t hard to say yes to, considering our family was already a 3-ring circus.
So every summer, my sister and I hosted a backyard carnival with midway-type games and circus acts. We had guest entertainers and barkers, but we didn’t want too many helpers because then we wouldn’t make as much money. Each game and show was a nickel per guest.
On top of saying YES to backyard carnivals, Mom let us have free reign. She didn’t step in and take over, telling us what to do and how. We figured it all out ourselves, from deciding which games to sending out invitations. With patience galore, she was a resource when we needed help. We had no fewer than thirty kids traipsing into our house and yard at any given event.
I would say we had just as much fun planning as we had during the actual event. The joy was definitely in the journey.
But it never would’ve happened if Mom hadn’t been willing to say YES to clutter, confusion, and chaos.
In this way, she, too, was an artist of the highest degree. With graciousness and a certain amount of laissez-faire, she gave us an environment for creativity to thrive. She said YES to mess and mayhem.
“To affect the quality of the day,
that is the highest of arts.” –Thoreau
Let this be an encouragement to all the moms and grandmas out there who think they’re not creative but want to encourage their kids and grandkids. Give room to grow. Say YES to Mess & Mayhem.
Do you recall times when your own imagination was given free reign, whether at home or school? Or when you’ve given your children that freedom? What happened as a result? When did you (or they) find “joy in the journey”?
I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Coming soon: a journalist/food columnist/crafter/Mom who creates and captures memories for friends and family . . . She says YES to Mess & Mayhem!