A proper childhood involves dirt. Lots of dirt.
Anyone who’s been to our house knows we have a high tolerance for filth. The bathrooms smell like the urinals at a sports arena, and not uncommonly there’s poop and/or vomit somewhere where it’s not supposed to be. On a good day we only have spectacular tempera paint disasters and sharpie marker on the walls, or a trail of mud and leaves leading to a pile of mossy rocks (i.e. “precious gems”).
But hey, we have two school-aged children, two cats, and two working parents. Our list of priorities does not include “spotless nice-smelling house”. Or even “reasonably clean not-bad-smelling house”.
Nor should it, in my mind. Children do not grow up, look back on their lives, and say to their parents “Gee, I wish our carpets had been pet odor-free” or “Why didn’t you make us take more baths?” or “I bet things would be different if you’d ironed my clothes”.
No, they’re going to remember when we clomped through the woods and pawed through the damp, mushroomy forest floor, searching for newts:
(I have so many more photos of my kids being messy and getting germy, but I’ll limit myself.)
It’s the dirt, bugs, creepy-crawlies, furry friends, paint, leaves, clutter, food prep, frosting fights, glitter, glue, and fun that they will remember. Those are the memories they will cherish.
And yes, that’s how I console myself when our house is trashed and the kids look feral.