My sister-in-law recently shared a screenshot of my 16 month-old nephew in the middle of what looked like snow all over her living room floor.

Snow? I thought.

Not so much. Rather very meticulously torn pieces of tissue.

I loved it!!

She, however, was not quite as amused (she did have to clean it up after all.) He, on the other hand, was very proud of his work.

We’ve all seen the photos and memes of children and toddlers in the most precarious of situations: covered in shaving cream, tattooed with sharpies, flour wars in the living rooms.  And while we all find these hysterical to look at, we often cringe at the thought of walking in on our own kids with a fist full of tempera paint standing in front of the flat screen. “NO!!” we think to ourselves. But I want to remind you of the very thing I said to my sister the other day, “children grow up fast enough.” Let’s remember to not rush the curiosity of childhood.

When my three were little, I took pride in making sure they knew this house belonged to them too. There was no room that was off limits. Nope, not even the formal living and dining rooms.  They were allowed to jump on the beds. They made forts in the living room. They had finger paints and play dough. And WE have soooo many memories.  I still have remnants of Camron’s “green magic hills and mountains” on the dining room wall.

I want to fill this post with research that demonstrates how the brain develops from crossing the body left over right. And how language develops through environmental exploration. But while all of these things are important to child development folk, what it really boils down to for parents and families are the memories. Fifteen years ago I became mommy to the happiest baby ever. (He actually laughed at less than two months!) Two and four years later we added a brother and sister to our happy family. In what feels like a literal blink of an eye, they are now 15, 12 and 10 year old adolescents. And they are still happily exploring (and testing) their boundaries, and making plenty of messes! (By the way, does anyone know of a good, affordable maid?)

Yesterday, I sat in amazement at how the boys still play hide and seek in the house, testing the spaces they once fit so easily. I love it when I walk in my 12 year old’s room and he’s creating some contraption with cardboard and duct tape. I still admire my 10 year old’s artwork on the walls; only now they’re properly on paper in matted frames. And as I prep the dining room for a much needed paint job, I’m hesitant to finally clean up the “magic hills and mountains.”

Remember, the messes, the “oops” and the “uh-ohs” eventually turn into memories. Try not to short change yourself.