I often take Sarah (19 mths) to a local free community playgroup. Last week she was happily painting when a mortified mother gasped at the sight of Sarah’s paint covered shirt and face. ‘Oh no! She has paint all over her face!’
This comment weighed on my mind for longer than it should have. It was just paint after all so why did this comment bother me so much?
I was watching Sarah paint the other day; she was completely and utterly absorbed by her motions, there was nothing careless or messy about it. And it occurred to me, only in our eyes, the eyes of those who inevitably clean it up, is this messy.
Yes, she gets paint on the floor, that’s why we have an old mat.
Yes, she sometimes eats the paint, that’s why we have non-toxic paint.
Yes, she often needs a good wipe down, that’s why we have wash towels (or even better, the hose).
But to Sarah, this is anything but mess. This is very serious work she is doing; she’s playing, she’s exploring, she’s creating.
She is a child, and this is what children should do.