There we sat, a group of mothers, waiting while our children sat in story time. A full hour alone without anyone bothering us, it was glorious. We all plopped down, unmoving, and enjoyed the brief respite during a summer break that is already overloaded with fun and the work that goes along with it.
I’m not sure how it all started, but someone mentioned something about being at a park and how her child was slightly on the dirty side before coming into the library. She said it quietly, as if it were the most embarrassing thing she’d experienced all day, her dirty child and how she had to wipe the dirt off of her legs before anyone saw her.
“You kidding?” I said, the wise one with three kids who has probably gotten four full nights of sleep in the past 10 years and eats more meals behind a steering wheel than at her kitchen table. “Did you not see me scrub the faces of my kids in the parking lot with a baby wipe before we walked in? I think there were two servings of ketchup on my youngest, and I can’t remember when my other daughter ate chocolate, but it was crusted on her cheek.”
And then it started, a waterfall of confessions of how dirty our children really are in the summertime.
“I haven’t bathed my kids in two days,” said one mother. Personally, we were on day five for actual baths, but I didn’t bother to mention that I count an hour in a sprinkler as a good-enough shower.
“I had to scrub down her legs twice today because we were playing outside before we went to the park for lunch,” someone confessed.
Another mom said, “I carry a container of wipes just to clean my children. I don’t have any babies left to tote around, but my kids get really dirty.”
I chimed in again, admitting that my son’s nails haven’t been white for months.
As things go, there are power in numbers and certainly solace in knowing that you aren’t alone in fighting the battle of dirty summer children. Suddenly, all together, we weren’t feeling so bad that we strive for simply “the illusion of clean” during the time of year when kids are, well, kids from dawn to dusk.
But here’s the kicker: we’re actually helping out our kids by allowing their mud-stained legs and dirt-smeared faces. Hooray for us!
According to an article in the New York Times, there is more and more evidence that suggests that eating dirt (and being dirty) is actually good for you. I wouldn’t say that a spoon of mud should replace your Flintstone vitamins, but scientists have concluded that all of the bacteria and viruses that live in the dirt help keep us healthy. Our immune systems actually benefit from this stuff, especially worms. (Worms? Yuk. That may be even a little much for this dirt-loving mom.)
The article goes on to say that our children are becoming too clean and that in order to help this generation with their immune and digestive health, they should do things like walk around barefoot in the dirt, not over-wash their hands, and refrain from frequent bathing. Call me crazy, but I think if a child ever gets their hands on this information, grand happiness will ensue.
In all, let this be a lesson to mothers everywhere. You are not alone! There are plenty of us out there attempting to cover-up the film of filth that has accumulated on our children since the day the last school bell rang. Our showers are all dry, our shampoo bottles are full. Our floors are covered in mud and our children’s feet have been caked with dust and dirt for weeks. There’s no longer a need to hide the fact that we are good mothers, that our slacking in the bathing and cleanliness department is nothing more than a way we express our general affection and care for our children’s well being.
We love, and therefore, we dirt.
(Or at least, that’s what I’m going with.)