Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eat, Mess, Learn

Mashed avocado hangs precariously from the bottom of Claire's plastic spoon, as she inches it to her mouth like a drunkard.

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.

toddler_making_a_mess

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.

51 comments:

  1. Yup, I have this mess times two everyday and have single handedly kept Huggies Wipes in business cleaning them and their messes up. Wonder what Dewey would say about that, lol :)

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  2. Messes drive me crazy but I learned years ago to take the route you just blogged about, it works about better for everyone, including me. :)

    Just a side note, we're studying Dewey right now in a class I'm in, and now it's here too... I just can't get away from school (slaps forehead and sighs). ;)

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    1. Sorry to add insult to injury! I actually found Dewey to be one of the best ones to study. I found his writing to be really inspiring. :)

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    2. No worries at all, I was lauging, and it was a good reminder to get to studying. ;)

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  3. Oh how I remember those days. That really was well-written, I have to say. And, uh, it doesn't REALLY get THAT much better when they're 13. :)

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    1. Thanks, Kim! And thanks for the warning. I'll prepare myself...

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  4. Ah, it's all a learning experience, she learns how to eat by herself, and you learn how to get avocado out of clothes!

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    Replies
    1. ha, ha! I should have a PhD in stain removal!

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  5. Kids will be kids! From eating to making mud pies, getting dirty is simply a way of life for them. Then, one day, as if by magic, they start noticing the least little thing and going crazy to get it off of them. Tis just a way of life. Hang in there! lol

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  6. Motherhood is terribly messy, but very rewarding. Good for you to restrain yourself from intervening and allowing your daughter to discover the world on her own. It's hard to do, but she will thank you for it someday. :)

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  7. Messy, blissful, educational joy! Remember, it's never to early to start having her help with the clean up (it's just messier and lengthier, but it's all teaching)!! :)

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    1. Yes, she likes to clean (more than her mother!)

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  8. How well I remember those days!! I felt like I had to keep paper towels and a spray bottle of cleaner in a holster in my belt. It is a learning process for both of you--but hang in there because one day soon she'll be eating with a fork and spoon neatly, and believe it or not, you're going to miss these days!

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    1. ha, ha! I'm picturing you whipping a spray gun out of your holster! I'd rather picture you with a margarita in hand

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  9. Yup! You did it again. This happened this morning actually while Reagan was eating her cereal. I looked at her and just knew at some point the majority of milk in the bowl would end up on the seat and then the floor.
    I was right.
    It's hard to look beyond the mess and realize that your child is still learning.

    I'll probably miss these days at some point but right now - it's super tough.

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    www.raising-reagan.com

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    1. That's right, b/c we both have two year olds! :0

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    2. Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
      Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

      ¤´¨)
      ¸.•*´
      (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
      www.raising-reagan.com

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  10. Yeah, the whole gravity wins thing is true here, too. Pretty much every time. Tucker has this thing about having his hands dirty, too, so I have to wipe them off like 40 times every time he eats. Thanks for the spin on looking at it from a teacher's perspective. Seeing it that way definitely makes it seem like these little dudes are so dang messy for a reason.

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  11. Gravity + toddlers = my floors being scrubbed daily. Great writing style! Love your blog, I'm a new follower from TGIF Blog Hop

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  12. The joys of being a mom following from the Hop http://mommaof3-littlebits.blogspot.com/

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  13. Yep, motherhood and loved every minute of it. Now, the same thing with grandmotherhood except, I can send them home.:)

    We may have met by chance...but we become friends by choice.
    http://simpleesue.com/try-one-new-recipe-a-week-mac-n-cheese-bacon-grilled-cheese-sandwich/

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  14. Already following but stopping by from GYB to say hi! Paula www.callmepmc.com

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  15. The food, the messy, messy food! I have now taken to feeding him before I dress or stripping him down to a nappy for a meal so he can make all the mess he wants. That's what life is all about after all :-)

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  16. Yeah... I mean, I used to just have my dog clean the floor, but then he gained 2.5 lbs and the vet told me to nix that. I've all but given up on keeping Henry's onesies white. I just strip him of all his clothing before he eats and do my best with the onesies... they're just undergarments, right??

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  17. Well written post! My little missy was also born in 2011 and yes messiness is one of the things that comes with motherhood as hard as it is to accept! Well hopefully before long they learn to feed and dress themselves and clean up after themselves too!!!!

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  18. Love this. I am the SAME WAY! I keep thinking I should be a spokeswoman for stain remover. Hello? I have a toddler! Love this so much!
    Kaylynn
    AmongTheYoung.com

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  19. I thought it would be easier as a grandmother but I have learned that baby wipes do amazing things. I never knew their magical powers when my girls were little.

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  20. Love this post!! You should link it up tonight:) I think I walk around with paper towels with their every meal or snack! It is actually quite funny! Motherhood is a truly wonderful journey with all the messiness along the way-lol

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  21. Love this post!! You should link it up tonight:) I think I walk around with paper towels with their every meal or snack! It is actually quite funny! Motherhood is a truly wonderful journey with all the messiness along the way-lol

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  22. I have been doing the mom bit for 6 years, the messes just don't seem to go away.

    New follower via Friday Chaos Blog Hop! Please feel free to follow back. :)

    <3, Bethanne from Break my Wings, I have a broomstick too!
    Http://witchybitchymommy.blogspot.com

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  23. I am so guilty of helping to avoid the mess! It just drives me crazy and I know I should be patient and allow Boo to explore the textures, etc...but I fail almost daily!

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  24. Hi there! I have ventured over from the Weekend Social blog hop. I'm enjoying this little peak into your world! Just lovely! XOXO, Mandi @ All My Happy Endings

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  25. I become a bigger fan of yours with each new post. Your posts are so thoughtful. Their full of brains, heart, and humor. You're seriously a diamond in the community of mom bloggers! Loved this! I find myself guilty of inserting myself into the learning curve where I'm not needed all the time, just to save myself the mess. A great reminder!

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  26. So, so very true! I am definitely a believer in letting kiddos experience the world, and messy play happens at my house all the time. I am not even close to a great housekeeper either, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. Love your perspective on this. :)

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  27. Oh we are in the same situation. haha. Motherhood deals with everything and mess is an everyday thing. Sometimes it drives me craaazy.

    It is nice to meet you Rachel. Followed you via G+ and GFC.

    I would also like to invite you to join us at Linkin with my ladies Blog hop.

    Blog Hop Link:
    http://www.pursuitoffunctionalhome.com/2013/03/welcome-to-week-6-wow-ladies-and-gents.html

    I hope to see you there.

    Judy
    http://www.pursuitoffunctionalhome.com/
    http://www.kusinaniinday.blogspot.com/

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  28. Hi there!

    I found you through Friday Flash Blog. I loved your article. I am going through the terrible two's right now, so I feel your pain! I look forward to reading more :)

    Jessica
    http://thewonderingbrain.blogspot.com

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  29. i'm no toddler... but learning is still incredibly messy for me too:) but honestly... if it's not messy, am i really learning anything?? great post... thanks for linking up!!

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  30. My girls are in kindergarten and 1st grade now but they still make LOTS of crazy messes! For some reason my oldest is the one who gets into more than her younger sister. My youngest daughter don't make to many messes these days but when she does they are BIG! Gotta love those crazy messy kids that are just so darn cute! <3

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  31. I'm trying so hard not to care about mess/clutter/etc especially if my kids are being creative but it's SO hard. Thanks for reminder! Em x

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  32. I've heard that the harder we work to civilize our children, the less civilized we become.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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  33. I have found this part of motherhood to be on the easier side. It must be because I am a slob. LOL.

    Thank you for linking up to Raising Imperfection!
    Make sure to check back on Friday to see if you were featured.
    Leslie

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  34. Stopped by with Silly Sunday Blog Hop! Already following. Love your posts!

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  35. I think all kinds of mother hood tasks are heroic - however small. You're welcome for the feature too.

    Thanks for linking up :)

    Sarah @ A Cat-Like Curiosity

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  36. Hola Rachel!
    I agree with Sarah, all mothers are heroes in one way or another. And you are a great one! Thanks for linking up every week...I appreciate YOU! :)

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  37. i was wondering the same just yesterday - how do mums with a perfectionist tendency cope with having kids at all. My son is like a hurricane of destruction whether its food or toys or something else. I love your post. I'm featuring it this sunday on the Sunday Parenting Party.

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  38. smiling at just the name of this place :). I DO NOT miss those days. But, I'm so glad I gave my kids freedom like this. It does encourage creativity. But...when they were old enough I also encouraged them to help with the cleaning. Creativity + responsibility=happy mom :) (and kids--most of the time). I've enjoyed my visit. Thank you for linking up to Playdates with God this week!

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  39. Oh yes the mess... it has taken me a while to learn to love the messy aspect of learning that my little bear does!

    Thank you so much for linking up at my Oh HAPPY Day Party!

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  40. I've been trying to re-oriente my thinking lately and see the simple grace in my kids messily-loving me. Especially when my boy picks the pretty flowers... in the church garden... for me. Every Sunday.

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