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:

And all the times we’ve cuddled stray street kittens at the animal shelter:

And, of course, the spectacular tempera paint disasters: 

(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.

4 thoughts on “A proper childhood involves dirt. Lots of dirt. ”

  • Besides, current evidence suggests that it’s good for their immune system. Plus, the personal is political, right? When my kids were little, one of my dear friends said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I really admire you for all the dust bunnies in your house! You’re a good feminist.” I will pass that message along to you.

    • If dust bunnies get me feminist credibility, I’m all set! How about shriveled grapes from someone’s snack two weeks ago? I’m gonna be famous! But seriously, yes, being less clean does seem to increase immunity and decrease allergies, last I checked. It’s good for the kids’ health and development!

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