Over the Christmas holiday we made some sugar cookies. As in,I made some cookies that we enjoyed eating. But Charlie helped with the decorating. After I spread some icing on the cookie I would hand it over to him and he would douse it with sprinkles. Needless to say, it made a big mess and the dog got more than her fair share of sugar for the day.
We weren’t able to decorate all the cookies that day, so Chris and I ended up finishing them up one evening after Charlie had gone to bed. There was much less of a mess that day. But I noticed as I put the cookies away into tins that while the cookies I had decorated were neater and conformed more to what is expected of a cookie, they weren’t nearly as fun to look at. My evenly sprinkled, traditional looking cookies seemed to be missing some soul. Charlie’s cookies had strange and unexpected mixtures of sprinkles. They were un-even and a little quirky. They looked like cookies that someone had had a lot of fun creating.
So this got me to thinking, as I am inclined to do from time to time. I started thinking about how we expect kids to make messes. It’s considered a natural part of childhood to be creative and messy and quirky. When I handed Charlie those sprinkles, I wanted him to have fun and enjoy the process of making cookies. I wanted him to get excited about the colors. I wanted him to enjoy shaking the sprinkle jar around. I knew at the end that I could just clean up the mess. It was no big deal. After all, if I tried to keep him from making a mess then he would never get to decorate cookies.
But at some point it’s like we decide that messes are no longer acceptable. As an adult I feel like my cookies need to be neat and perfect. I should try to make them look like something out of a magazine or a pinterest board. I get more concerned about the product of my work than the process. How many times have I refrained from trying something new because I knew my result wouldn’t be as nice and pretty as I wanted it to be? How many times have I stressed out about making something look just so that I forgot to enjoy what little time I have to be creative? Have I ever tried to make something without the hope or expectation of being able to show it off?
When Charlie sits down with some crayons to color, I never feel the need to keep his artwork. Maybe I’m just not sentimental enough, but I think mainly I don’t care to keep it because I know Charlie doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what the piece of paper looks like when he’s done, he’s too busy having fun coloring. It the process and the experience that matters to him, not the end product.
Oh, the things we learn from babes. As I move into this new year I want to give myself permission to not be so productive. I want to remember that not everything I do has to have an end product. I want to give myself the freedom to make messes, enjoy the experience, live my life with a little more soul.