Firm Father or Daddy?

I've written before that messes are a big part of my life, as I spend much of my day cleaning up all sorts of toys, food, etc. It comes with the territory of kids. But lately I have been finding myself spending a lot of energy trying to make sure the kids don't make messes in the first place (so I don't have to clean them up, or enforce them cleaning up, which is another beast altogether). Sometimes I worry, however, that I am breeding OCD, type-A people that won't be comfortable with things out of order. This is especially true in our kitchen/dining area, where I have always been pretty adamant about keeping things clean.

Yesterday, Waverly was eating lunch and tried to switch chairs. If there is one child I am not worried about becoming OCD, it's definitely her -- messes are her comfort zone. Well, as she moved from the outside chair to the inside, she accidentally fell between the two and onto the floor. In the process, she flipped over her lunch plate, and rice, green beans, pears and tofu scramble went all over the place. Yeah...

Waverly's personality in a nutshell.

As she sat crying on the floor, my first impulse wasn't to console her, however, but the clean up the mess. People tell me I'm a good dad, but in moments like this, they may change their minds. My flaws go on display like the sun-dried tomatoes scattered all over the floor. I did make sure she was okay and cleaned her off, but honestly I was kind of mad at her. Waverly moves about very erratically most of the day, always moving, leaning on stuff, falling over -- I saw this as an extension of her inability to stay still (perhaps this is an unrealistic expectation?). I then sat her down and started cleaning up, while she cried next to me, clearly distraught.

It took a few minutes, but eventually I did stop cleaning and consoled her. I realized she needed more from me than a clean floor, and so I picked her up and checked on her emotional state. After she had calmed a little, I finished cleaning, but even then she was still upset. Finally, I sat her on my lap and ate lunch with her -- she needed me more than anything.

This balance between rearing competent, responsible individuals, and giving the grace needed for a toddler is kind of tricky. Having two children at different ages and maturities makes it even more difficult. Sometimes they need the firm father, but sometimes they just need Daddy. I guess I'm still learning where the lines are, but the most important thing, I would say, is to always remain sensitive to both internal and external needs, prioritizing and adjusting as needed.

And some folks think staying home with the kids is easy...