I love design, and I love finding beauty and inspiration in everyday things. The biggest source, for me, is found in nature: greenery, growth, the abundant radiance in every single thing that can be grown in the earth, the changing of the seasons, the constellations, the stars, the sun and the moon. All if it. Nature can inspire every medium and every style, from rustic to modern, sleek, clean, and graphic, to adorned, eclectic, and kitsch. I love how in nature, all of these various styles merge together and no one questions why. It’s never too much.
What does this have to do with parenting? I’m about to tell you, and hopefully this helps. Because when this clicked for me, it made a radical difference in how I parent and how stressed I am on a daily basis.
When I analyze nature, I see precise geometric patterns that exist within lopsided or slightly uneven details. For instance, bark on a tree is rough, yet beautiful. Especially when taking in a whole tree, for all of its parts, in all of its fully bloomed splendor. In using nature as my model in our home, I’m able to mirror a playful display of adult and child: co-existing without fighting it. I used to agonize over maintaining a clean and tidy home, showcasing my design finds, collections, and arrangements. For some reason I thought I was losing a part of myself if I didn’t have my “adult spaces” and tried to design certain rooms around the kids and certain rooms around my own style. This was impossible and stressful and definitely not embracing what it is to be a parent. To me, anyways.
I’ve found an innovative link between nature vs. nurture. The nature all around me, and how it nurtures itself astounds me. For example, when I sow my seeds each winter into spring, I plant them into soil, row upon row, spaced inches apart depending on their size and how well I want them to grow. I create a precise, geometric pattern with each planting. And yet, my hands get dirty. It’s an extremely messy job. Soil gets everywhere. Do you see where I’m going with this? If I can find beauty and serene calm in planting a garden, while getting muddy and sweaty, then surely I can let go of a perfectly adorned home. That perhaps if I embrace creating child-friendly spaces in every single room, I can make it flow. Make it look beautiful, even when it gets messy.
Since coming to this realization, I’ve been less antsy about constantly keeping a tidy home or toy-free zones. The kids are more relaxed and bug me for screen time less when I’ve taken the time to create little areas of entertainment and play for them. And that’s a win-win for all of us. So, practically speaking, how did I manage to fuse our worlds in a way that is both beautiful and slightly chaotic? In three steps:
1. I made unexpected places for them to play.
For example, in the kitchen. Instead of kids running around under my feet and yammering at me to give them this and get them that, this is now the hub of some pretty sweet moments and quiet talks. I’m not saying it works every time, but there is a noticeable difference. I made room on the kitchen island for a few small books, one mini puzzle, some magnetic blocks, a container of basic art supplies, and a sketch book and number/letter work-book. They also have a kid-friendly knife, peeler, and cutting board on the shelf under where their chairs are so they can assist me from time to time.
Here’s a tip: Switch out books, puzzles, blocks etc., every couple of weeks, with different activities, games, toys, and books. Keep it simple and choose small things. Do something themed-based on a season, a holiday, a color, etc.
2. I replaced a coffee table with an activity station.
I let go of the idea of a swank coffee table and instead created an activity station. You can always find them on Craigslist and I’ve often seen them in second-hand stores. I understand you don’t want to put that big intrusive thing in the center of your living room. (I actually had to convince my husband that it needed to live upstairs instead of in the playroom in the basement.) I’m telling you … you will reap the rewards in other ways. Our kids like to be around us. Try as I might to send them downstairs, they always trickle back upstairs. The train set barely got played with down there. Now? They’re on it like gang-busters. It doubles as a craft table, LEGO table, block-building masterpiece table, play-dough table, etc. The drawers underneath house all sorts of stuff. I’m in love with our ugly train table now. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
3. I showcase all of their artwork.
I haven’t fully delved into this and I have some grand plans to up-cycle thrifted picture frames to make big wall collages that I can easily switch out (thank-you Pinterest), but for now I’m washi-taping their art all over the damn place. Kid art is beautiful. It might not be very geometric, minimal, or modern looking … but no one’s saying you can’t mix it together with your coveted pieces. It will look like the darling children reign supreme in your home as opposed to terrorizing it. Maybe.