Yes, I'm the mother at the park whose toddler is barefoot in the sand box eating handfuls of dirt and a cheese stick, simultaneously. Allow me to explain why I'm OK with this.

I have a very long list of “Things it Appears I'm Supposed to Care About but Don't,” particularly in the area of motherhood. Sometimes it's reading some article on how to organize closets and I'm like, “Wait. People organize closets?”

Other times I'm sitting at the park and I hear a parent tell their toddler, “Oh honey, don't play in the bark, it's dirty!” and I throw a glance at my own toddler, who's sitting in the sandbox barefoot with a face so dirty it's actually become mud, eating crackers covered in I-don't-even-want-to-know-what, with grass in her hair and a shirt with lunch on it. I think to myself, “Mothers care about dirt. You should care about dirt. How come you don't care about dirt?”

Or: "You should probably do something about that filthy offspring of yours."

But then I remember I'm at the park, and that the toddler is happy and occupied, and I decide to forget about the filth and enjoy myself too.

I want to justify my decision

Kids don't die from eating dirt. It's disgusting, but I don't think it's harmful.

And I want to justify my decision, like I have some big sweeping reason about why I don't care about dirt, why I let them get wet and roll around and stain their clothes while I'm busy not caring. I want to tell you some big “philosophy” I have as a mother that makes me think it's OK, but truthfully, I'm lazy, and I don't see a problem in my kids getting dirty. Kids don't die from eating dirt. It's disgusting, but I don't think it's harmful.

In fact, if pressed, I'd admit that I believe getting dirty is actually very, very good for them. They're learning. They're exploring. It's important.

I'm also not willing to fight those battles because… because why? No really. Why? Why do I need to stress about my kid getting dirty? Why do I need to care if her clothes get stained?Isolated dirt

I mean if we're going to a fancy event (GOD FORBID) or some important family holiday (lord help us), I will lay down the law all crazy style to keep my kids clean — but I do that for hours, not years. The thought of daily concern for excessive cleanliness is simply mind-blowing.

And yet, I see people telling their kids to not do this or that because it's going to stain their clothes or get them dirty.


Kids get dirty. Clothes get stained.

That's why I buy their clothes at thrift stores: So I don't have to care. If a kid can't play in the clothes she's wearing at the park, why is she wearing them to the park?

I will never understand some parenting approaches

I'll be damned if I'm going to chase my kid around with antibacterial wipes.

And please save me from the “germ” argument. Germs. They're everywhere. I'll be damned if I'm going to chase my kid around with antibacterial wipes every second of every day to protect them from the inevitable.

Kids get sick. Sickness builds immunities. Wash hands. Wash hands a lot.

Move on.

My kids have the rest of their lives to worry about keeping clean, about “fitting in” and behaving by societal norms (such as not rolling around in public sandboxes), about not getting wet and messy and crazy. Why not let them enjoy their freedom while they still have it?

Because it reflects badly on me to have a barefoot toddler eating grass?


Am I imposing this rule for them or for me?

Unless you're the kid. In that case, it makes me Mother of the Year. And you know, I think that's important, that I ask myself "Am I imposing this rule for them or for ME?" Sometimes it's going to be for me... but sometimes, you know, I think it should be for them. And maybe I'm the one who needs to mellow out, let go of expectations and LET MY KIDS PLAY.

So I guess in the end, it's all a matter of perspective, and even dirt-eating can be viewed as an "enriching activity."

More on child development and play...

Connecting kids with nature
Boredom is banned: 5 Simple tips for a fun-filled summer
Letting your child out of sight