Nurturing Creativity: It's Not About the Mess


I made dinner with my 10-year-old daughter last night. She loves to cook, and she doesn't always like to follow a recipe. Not surprising since this is my daughter who doesn't always like to follow the rules.

Last night, she wanted to make a dish of her own creation -- pastry-wrapped meatballs. I had to make a few modifications to her recipe just to get them to stay together, but we managed to come up with a meal.

I have to admit, though, I was skeptical that they were going to be edible. I had the pizza order all ready to be placed. Turns out, her recipe wasn't half bad. We decided the filling was better than the pastry part, but it wasn't terrible. For a first attempt at creating a recipe, it was pretty good.

As we were working together in the kitchen, I realized that too often I'm the obstacle to my kids' creativity. I'm the one standing in the way, saying, "That's too messy" or "That takes too long" or even "You might get hurt." Now, I'm not interested in sacrificing my kids' safety in favor of creativity, but too often, those are just excuses because I don't want to help or clean up.

My younger daughter loves to cook, yet I don't let her in the kitchen all that often. It's a lot of work to cook with her -- and a lot of mess. When I refuse to be inconvenienced, though, I'm stifling a portion of her God-given personality. My older daughter likes to draw and paint. She can draw anytime she wants to, but painting is an opportunity that comes infrequently in our house because I don't like to clean up the mess.

Too often, we put our own comfort over indulging our kids' God-given interests and talents. The truth is, if we don't nurture the gifts and talents God gave our kids, then we stifle them. Our kids may even lose interest in those things, thereby losing an important piece of who God made them to be.

Romans 12:6 says "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." My kids' gifts aren't the same as mine, which means that I need to be flexible in allowing them to express their gifts even when those gifts aren't interesting or fun to me.

We don't have to spend every minute of the day focused on our kids. We don't have to let them make a mess every day, but we do need to offer our kids frequent opportunities to express their gifts and talents. We do need to encourage them to exercise their creativity. They can only mature into the person God wants them to be if we recognize and develop the gifts and talents He gave them.

Even if it means letting our kids make a mess. Even if it means eating a dinner that's OK instead of wonderful. Even if it means doing something that doesn't appeal to us.

Because if we don't nurture our kids' gifts and talents, no one else will.