Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Once Was Blind...An Aha Moment

Joy making bread

I am a perfectionist.  Sometimes.  Mostly when it comes to my baking.  I want my baked goods to turn out perfect and delicious.  I want my kitchen to remain orderly and not end up covered in the spoils of flour and sugar and yeast.  Don't even get me started on the less savory things like honey and oil and other gooey ingredients getting all over my kitchen.  Painful.

So imagine this scene.  An ordinary home kitchen-mine.  Two moms.  Twelve girls ranging from 3rd-6th grade.  120 sugar cookies.  4 tubs of frosting.  10 containers of various sprinkles.  Free license to decorate enough cookies to take home to their families.


Absolute total complete beyond my imagining chaos.

I stood there watching the girls dipping their fingers into the frosting jars and licking them.  Dumping mountains of sprinkles on their cookies.  Spilling sprinkles all over the table and floor.  Frosting being smeared across my table.  The mess.  Oh my goodness.  The mess.

I almost died.

But then inner Lisa had a talk with myself and said, "Look around at these girls.  Laughing.  Talking.  Having a great time.  Doing something innocent and fun.  Is having a clean kitchen and perfect looking cookies more important than this moment?"

So I ushered the girls out of the kitchen when they were done and got to cleaning up the worst of the mess while they played a game with my hero (the other mom) who agreed to stay and help me with the party.

Later as the girls were all leaving, they all stopped and thanked me, telling me they had a really good time.  And it wasn't even prompted by their parents.  They genuinely had a good time.  And I thought about that later as I was sweeping up sprinkles and scrubbing frosting off my table.  But the lesson didn't stick until this morning.

A little kitchen chemistry as Joy learns to weigh ingredients

I needed to make bread for dinner and Joy asked to help.  She basically made the bread by herself, measuring the ingredients herself on the scale.  Every time I tried to intervene, she pulled the measuring cups away and said, "I got this, Mom.  I can do it myself."  Once again my eyes saw the flour and yeast and water on the counter and floor.  But then the Holy Spirit checked my soul and said, "Lisa.  Stop.  Let her do this.  You can clean up the mess later.  She is learning to make bread and to create something to be proud of.  Let her.  It's okay if it isn't perfect.  It's okay is things get spilled.  The lesson is more important than the end result."

So I backed off.  I let her do it all by herself.  I died to my desire for perfection and order.  And I left the end result of our bread up to Joy.  After we were done mixing up the bread, I started cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes.  Joy said she would help me with the hand washing.  Again, I wanted to step in and do it myself because Joy's method of hand washing involves half a bottle of dish soap, lots of water on the floor, and dishes that are still dirty when she's done.  But I let her wash them anyway with plans to rewash them when she was gone from the room.  As she was washing the dishes, I glanced behind me and saw this.

I almost insisted it be picked up immediately because we were in the process of cleaning the house for company.  But again the Holy Spirit checked me and something very different came out of my mouth.

"So why are the stuffed animals all over the hall?"

"I'll pick them up when I'm done doing dishes."

"No, I'm not asking you to clean them up.  I'm asking what game you are playing."

"Really?  We're playing a toy game.  The hall is death valley and David has to kill all the animals in order to get through."

"So how does he kill them?"

"He has to throw his fish stuffed animals at them."

"Who came up with this idea?"

Lizzy piped up, "I did!  I came up with the idea and Joy made it happen."

"That sounds like a really imaginative game.  I'm glad you are having fun."

And this was the moment that I realized that I have spend my kids' entire childhoods focusing on the wrong things.  I see the mess.  And only the mess.  Yesterday I would have seen the mess and told them to clean it up.  I wouldn't have asked them why the mess was there.  I wouldn't have asked about their game and how they play it.  I wouldn't have let them keep my hall lined with stuffed animals.  I have had blinders on my eyes all this time.

Messes can be cleaned up.  Order can be restored.  But creativity and ingenuity and learning and sense of accomplishment can be squashed in a heartbeat the moment Mom steps in and says STOP.  Clean up this mess.  No, don't do that.  Here, let me help you.

And so I am making a promise right now that I will stop focusing on the wrong things.  I will ask questions before making demands.  I will see the creativity and ingenuity before the chaos.  I will embrace the learning opportunities and pride in accomplishments without stressing over the resulting mess.  I will see my children as mad geniuses busy inventing instead of as F5 tornadoes bent on destroying my orderly life.

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