Gratitude makes the journey better. Kindness, too.

The Importance of Being (Occasionally) Messy

It was early March, two years ago. After days of incessant West coast drizzle, the sun came out and we followed. One of our favorite spots in the big city was the unassuming Fraser River banks. The shores were exposed that day. An open invitation to explore if I ever saw one.

The boys were dressed for chilly weather. As they were playing layers came off. Hats, coats, sweaters.

“It’s so warm, mom.”
It was. Next, they explored the swampy area further down. An unforgotten adventure of the summer before.

Their voices trailing behind like jolly puppies, they went deeper into the muddy reeds. I could see and hear them.
“Mom, it’s squishy!”
“It’s so hard to step on this without sinking!”

Giggles followed their words. More excited screams piled on top of the giggles until the exploring stopped. The oh-oh laughter.
“Mom, we’re trapped! We’re sinking!”

There was no imminent danger so I suggested they get themselves out of the muddy pickle they got themselves into.

So they did. A few minutes later they plopped themselves by my side and explained how they did it: They pulled their feet out of the boots and then pulled the boots out of the mud. By sliding them sideways, they explained, because pulling up did nothing.
Fair enough. Physics sounds appealing at the banks. We talked about the forces that kept their boots stuck and why sliding them made them unstuck. How fun!

Of course, pulling feet out of boots meant they walked in their socks all the way back. Muddy got redefined. They each carried a smile so large I thought their faces would stay like that forever.

“Mom, can we take our socks off?” As always, kicking it up a notch seemed logical.
I smiled, which to them meant yes. They walked barefoot, squishing mud with their feet and churning it in between their toes for the rest of the day. And laughing.

They filled their socks with mud and pretended to have discovered dinosaur eggs. Not a tingle of discontent. They got to be up to their necks in mud and it should be stated that no figure of speech could belittle the deed. I have photos to prove it.

My youngest lost a sock that day. “The river took it, mom. But you know what? I have another pair just like that at home.” Right he was. Not that it mattered much. They were getting small anyway and a bit thin here and there. Fun was priceless.

Another place in the big city that gets severely muddied up at low tide, we called it The Secret Place, was the scene of many a squishy walk.

Lost on wide endless muddy shores, time became a bug that you squeeze between your fingers to make it disappear. It was like that.

We stomped our feet in the mud, washed in the rivulet tributary to the big waters just to get muddy again, snacked on ripe salmonberry, held our breath as the cheeky cattails sprayed us with dust, and at the end of the day, every little messy detail of that day found its was into my journal.

The best messy story there ever was.

We’ve found a decent number of destinations for messy fun around Kamloops too and we’ll find more as we go.

But we’re not strangers to indoors messy fun either. Often while I cook dinner the boys make potions that teach them about how turmeric floats and rice sinks, about how oil always stays on top and if you add a few drops of lemon juice to baking soda you’ll have a volcano. And make a darling mess.

Whether you have little ones, or grown kids, or no kids at all, do indulge, I dare you. It’s the best way to learn (for them and you) and it’ll put a smile on your face.

Cleaning up together is a must and if you have to get it as a solemn promise beforehand, please do. A win-win situation.

Here’s a shortcut to some of the best messy fun there is: Mix half a cup of water with a cup of cornstarch and feel it with your hands. I won’t spoil it for you. It’ll make you chuckle, guaranteed. Laugh if you must. It feels that good.

You can add food colors too. One drop, spread it around. More? Why not. Make a rainbow? Here it comes!

Children need messy fun. The thing is, if their hands don’t get messy than their minds are not learning. So allow them. Better yet, join in. Leave the “cleaning up” thoughts behind until all the fun is done with.

After you’re done cleaning up, I promise you’ll find chuckles and good memories snuggled up against your soul. They’ll help you remember about being a kid and perhaps make part of you remain one forever.

Originally published in the Kamloops Daily News as “The Importance of Getting Messy.” (Saturday, February 9, 2013)


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  1. Love this! What a great story, and I really must try the cornstarch idea……..

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