It was one of those moments when my heart and mind took photos and tucked them away for future use. What appeared to be a normal Sunday afternoon would forever change my life and set the stage for our family's future.
We were living in India at the time and we didn't have kids. We often spent time chatting with coworkers and friends (mostly British), enjoying a cup of tea together. On this particular day, we were sitting in the garden (lawn), enjoying fellowship and fresh tea with some friends. They had three young children and while the adults sat and talked, the kids were running around. At some point, the kids got out squirt guns and their running and squirting games got closer and closer to where we were sitting. They eventually were running around and through our semi-circle and I admit, I was getting annoyed. I wanted to enjoy my cup of tea in the peace of the sunny afternoon. Finally, the dad stood up.
"Oh good!" I thought. "He is going to do something about the craziness!"
Well, he did something. But it wasn't what I expected.
He stood up and called his son over to him. As his son approached (most likely concerned that he was going to be reprimanded), his dad looked at him with the look that parents give when they are disappointed in their kids. A split second later, the dad grabbed the squirt gun, drenched his son, and then started running around and squirting the other children. There were squeals of delight and as the chaos circled around me, part of my parenting philosophy was formed.
Embrace the chaos.
Life with kids will be crazy. There is no way to get around it. There will be tears, dirty diapers, spilt milk, laundry, dishes to be washed, fights, broken windows, scraped arms and legs, too little sleep, and clashes of expectations and personalities. It will be loud, crazy, and hard.It will be messy.
It does no good to wish these facts away. We can dream all we like about tidy homes, kids that always obey, a full night of sleep, peaceful and tranquil spaces. But that just isn't the reality when there are children are around. Kids cry. They make messes. They are loud. Where kids are present, chaos follows.
So instead of wishing away the chaos (or the kids!), I took the lesson from that sunny Sunday afternoon and I learned to embrace it. I expect it. I allow it. And sometimes, I even encourage it.
For years I even blogged with the title, "This is My Life...I will Embrace It." Way back when, with just three years of parenting experience under my belt and three kids aged 3 and under, I embraced it. I learned to laugh at it.
Life is too short to insist on clean, quiet, and calm. Hoping and striving for those things will only lead to frustration. I think many moms spend their time with little kids simply trying to tread water, hoping that the mess, the noise, and unexpected don't drown them. Instead, if we just embrace the chaos, life becomes fun again. Kids are free to explore, create, and imagine. Moms are free to smile, rest, and involve themselves.
By no means does this mean we shouldn't set boundaries. Kids needs rules, discipline, and to sometimes have their wings clipped. Dishes need to be washed. Rooms need to be cleaned. Kids need to be told, "No." But when we embrace the chaos and let the natural curiosity and energy of little kids set the pulse of the home, a different kind of peace settles in. It's the peace of letting kids be kids. When children are allowed to be themselves (instead of tiny adults), the mess and the noise come — but so do the giggles, the smiles, the imaginations, the dreams, and the family memories.
So today, instead of wishing away the chaos, I choose to embrace it. I will embrace the busyness. I will embrace the creativity. I will embrace the noise. I will embrace the teaching and learning opportunities. I will accept life for what it is instead of wishing for what will never be. I'm not going to let three doctor appointments, three dentist appointments, a sink full of dirty dishes, a sick baby, piles of laundry, a birthday to plan, a trip to pack for, and a never-ending to do list keep me from the joy that these little people bring.