I want to intervene, badly. I know the odds. In the race between speed and gravity, gravity usually prevails with a baby learning to eat from a spoon.
"Oh, no!" Claire says, rubbing the glob of green that has hit her shirt further into the weave of the fabric. In the process, she elbows the sippy cup off the table and onto the floor.
”Yup. I was right. I win,” I think.
If my baby could talk better, she would respond with something like, "But who needs to win, mom?" Why you spoiling all the fun?"
Each meal is new adventure for Claire, an opportunity to investigate properties, try new things, practice hard-won skills. She's part explorer, part scientist, part conqueror of the world -- planting her flag gloriously atop a mountain of guacamole. When I look at it from a baby's perspective, I'm happy to serve as her guide, to be the Sacagawea to her Lewis or Clark.
The problem is that I don't always see things the way Claire does. Instead, I see the big, giant mess she leaves in her wake. And the chaos that I am left to clean up.
The funny part is that I'm not considered the Donna Reed of housekeeping anyway (my husband would concur). I often wonder how moms with greater perfectionist tendency than my own deal with the amount of daily mess that toddlers make (and I'm clearly not talking only about disarray in the eating arena here). It must be a challenge.
I'm able to temper my own inertia about the Groundhog's Day phenomenon of toddler chaos by putting on my teacher's hat. I find inspiration in the beliefs of the 19th Century father of American education, John Dewey:
To 'learn from experience' is to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequence. Under such conditions, doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction -- discovery of the connection of things.
-Democracy and Education
I'm reminded to value the time that Claire gets to experiment, explore and play. It's the best way for her to learn about herself and her world, to gain confidence in her abilities and to grow more independent.
The part that Dewey leaves out in his philosophy is that the process of learning can be extremely messy, particularly when the learner in question is of the baby or toddler variety. Still, I’m a believer. His ideas embrace exuberant curiosity about everything around us; a quality I desire to instill in my daughter, even when I’m wearing my mom hat (or cleaning gloves, as it were).
Yes, being a mom is filled with daily banalities like rubbing Spray & Wash on green stains. Thinking about some of our great philosophers makes these routine things about motherhood feel a bit more heroic!
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Photo Source, Molly, Moom in Molly, Flickr. This photo has been adapted and does not suggest that the licenser endorses me, this blog or its use. License.