We just got back from a weekend on a lake in Vermont. Our two girls—three and eighteen months—LOVED it.

They fished, they played in the dirt, they splashed in the water, they ran in the grass, looked for worms and bugs and the loons on the lake and they were outside all day. Basically, they had the time of their lives.

Being a parent this summer, with children this age, brings me right back—in such a magical way—to summers of my youth.

To the times when my mom would let us run wild through the summer rain, splashing in puddles and not caring about our soaking wet hair or the slippery grass.

To the times when we could go swimming in our clothes or undies because we ended up at a friend’s house but didn’t bring our bathing suits and wanted to get in the water. Embracing spontaneity and all that jazz.

To the times we’d come home from the beach with sand all over our legs and feet and (definitely) our van.

My feet were always rough and calloused because I never wore shoes. I walked around barefoot all summer long. To me, nothing was better.

My childhood summers were the definition of not having a care in the world.

They were pure happiness.

And now, I get to watch my children experience those same summers. And I’ve decided, I’m not going to rain on their carefree summer parade with worries of mud and messes.

I’m going to let them go ahead and get dirty and messy. I don’t want them to worry for a second about the pizza sauce on their face or the ice pop stain on their shirt or the dirt on their feet. I’m going to let them live it up—even if that means putting my anxieties aside time and time again.

No matter how many times I want to wipe my daughter’s face as she’s eating chocolate ice cream, I’m going to stop myself. She sure as heck doesn’t care that there is ice cream dripping everywhere. So, I’m gonna take a chill pill and let her finish her ice cream before she gets a quick wipe down.

No matter how much I want to suggest a certain pair of shorts with a certain top for my little one, I’m going to stop myself. I’m not going to worry about smoothing out the bumps in her ponytail or styling her hair any particular way. She can wear what she wants, what’s comfortable to her and what she feels good in this summer. (I mean, I’ll draw the line at letting her wear a snowsuit on an 85 degree day or her Ninja Turtles costume to her aunt’s wedding, but aside from that...)

No matter how much I’ll wonder if it’s actually okay for them to be digging and walking barefoot and rolling around in the dirt, I’m going to assure myself that yes—it’s fine. There is a genius invention called soap and a fancy apparatus called a bathtub. Life will go on. My children, when given the opportunity, really become “one with the earth” when they see dirt and they basically paint themselves with it. But they clearly are having a blast when they do it. So, bring it on!

No matter how much I want to protect those little feet and toes, if they don’t want to wear shoes (as long as it’s safe), they can go without. I don’t know why, but I still love the feeling of my bare feet in the grass, on the sidewalk or in the sand. It’s freeing. If they want in on that, I’ll allow it.

When I silently wonder to myself how the chalk has ended up in their hair, all over their bodies (yes—even on their lips/mouth) I’ll focus instead on their awesome chalk masterpieces on the stones in our yard. I’ll admire their huge smiles and I’ll be dazzled by their explanation of what they drew for me.

No matter how uncomfortable it looks to me to be playing in soaking wet clothes, it’s cool with me. If they want to walk into the lake a bit to get a better view of the ducks—with their pants on—have at it. If they want to splash in the puddles of a storm that just passed, let’s do it. Life’s too short to not dive in!

This summer has been filled with lots of great reminders for me from my kiddos so far. They inspire me to slow down, to open my eyes to these small, simple joys of life—just like they do all the time. Noticing these little things is their norm, but has become almost foreign to me in the inevitable rush and craziness of life.

But I was a kid once, and it used to be my norm, too. I can find that again, and my children are helping me.

These “messy” requests they have are so pure.

They want to be outside, to be exploring, to be squeezing every bit of joy out of life that they can. Since stopping and thinking about all of this, it makes me really happy that they want to experience the world in this way.

It’s now easier to allow these “messes” because I’ve realized—life is just one big, beautiful mess anyway, right?