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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Messiness and parenting

Uploaded: Oct 11, 2018
With three young kids it’s easy to misplace items. I’ve given up on keeping track of everything. “Where is a specific Lego piece?,” No clue. “Where is the orange play-dough? I don’t know, but here is some red. ”Where is the hot wheels I played with yesterday?” Maybe under the couch. “Where is my favorite blue shirt?” Could be in the laundry.

While I wish we were more organized, I don’t want to spend any more time actually organizing. We are finding a balance- keeping track of the important things and letting the less important stuff go.

Recently, I was very lucky to have a kid-free morning and I decided to listen to an audiobook while on my way to swim and do some yoga (I didn’t want to touch the dishwasher, laundry, or mail during this rare kid-free time. Cleaning and organizing was just going to wait). Tim Harford’s book, Messy, was the perfect audiobook for that moment. I only had half an hour, but I enjoyed hearing his argument that sometimes messiness is beneficial. Messiness can cause us to step out of our comfort zone and to be more creative.

So the next time we cannot find orange play dough, I hope we take it as an opportunity to mix different colors together to make new ones. And the next time we can’t find a specific Lego piece, I hope our search for a replacement helps us build something a bit more creative and unique.

Of course there are times when organization is important, but listening to Messy is helping me embrace some of the chaos that comes with raising three little ones.
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Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Oct 14, 2018 at 9:07 am

I am a great believer in the fewer toys the better because it is easier to keep track of them. Being messy sometimes works OK. Playing in muddy puddles (when we have rain), getting dirty, and keekping the wonderful lego structure for a couple of days before putting it away in case improvements need to be made, are fine. It comes with territory that bathtime is often in the middle of the day rather than at bedtime because who wants a toddler covered in sand, chocolate icecream, or ketchup, spreading it all over the house. That when coloring, someone can have orange hair because we can't find the brown crayon or the yellow marker has dried up (because someone forgot to replace the cap).

To me, childhood is not about making the perfect replica of the car out of playdough, but imagining what they can make with the legos we have or what to do with the shoebox now we have brought it home.

As a child I remember the old cardboard box I kept my toys in for quite a long time. I used to tip the toys out and climb in the box as it became a pirate ship, or a dollies ambulance. I do remember using a red pencil to put a red cross on the side and the box carried that red cross until it at last disintegrated complete with some sticky substance that I think used to be the face of a cheap rubbery hand puppet that got stuck to the side when it was left too close to the heater. Funny that I don't remember too many of my toys, but that cardboard box that was supposed to hold them is embedded in my memory.

As life becomes more busy with schedules and activities, I think it is even more important to let childhood take place every day. We have often eaten dinner at the table which still has rugs hanging over the side from the dragons den it was an hour before, or tip toed over the train set all over the living room which took all afternoon to build before being enough time to actually run the trains around it.

I love messy. At home there are no rules about putting all toys away before bed (just the ones that are left around with no purpose), and no rules about sharing a special or favorite toy when a friend comes for a playdate, we just hide the toy in Mom's bedroom so that it won't be played with for the duration. One day, the house will be tidy again and the empty house will be quiet and filled with the ghosts of our children's childhood filling the spotless kitchen and the stylish living room - or at least that's what I keep telling myself!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 14, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mother of 4- Yes, cardboard boxes are great. Just this week we had a lot of fun turning large boxes into a Halloween-themed castle. I just love seeing our kids think up different designs and problem solve how to actually cut and duct tape a box to make it a reality. It’s messy, but so wonderful. Thanks for commenting!

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