Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paint On My Nails, Mud Between My Toes

If you met me during my college years, you would guess immediately that I am not one to shrink at the thought of getting dirty. I didn't own a garment that wasn't covered in paint or glue. My nails were always cruddy, even when my hands were clean. That isn't to say that I was a messy person, or that I didn't bathe, no sir. (One of my small indulgences is a long, hot shower every morning.) But if my project required it, I would put my hands in the clay, squeeze the goop off the papier mache, and depress the nozzle on the spray can, painting without a care in the world outside of whether the paint was covering evenly and would it drip.

As a mom, this trait comes in very handy. I regularly clean up grubby faces, smelly bottoms, and sticky fingers (as well as the trail of goo left behind by said fingers). Yesterday I was digging around in the garden, pulling up weeds that were growing as tall as the bean plants, and getting plenty of dirt beneath my nails and sweat dripping down my back, and it occurred to me that some of the best things in the world leave one messy. 

Growing up in the country, my sisters and I regularly played in the woods and the creeks and river near our house. I remember a day when we spent an afternoon sliding down a muddy ravine as if it were a slicky slide, and returning home for dinner to be greeted by the water hose; mom wouldn't let us in the house until we had been well-rinsed, and even then I think she made us leave our clothes on the porch. 

On another day, us kids returned to the house with a bucket of bright purple poke berries. My mom spread a big blue tarp on the garage floor and flattened out a bunch of brown paper bags for us to use as a canvas for our poke berry paint. We spent the whole afternoon making masterpieces that would fade to brown as the purple juice dried, but that didn't discourage us. And we certainly weren't discouraged by the thought of getting dirty.

Nowadays if one turns on the TV, one is met with an advertisement for Chlorox followed by a commercial for Lysol. We are told that if we want to be good mothers, we will sterilize our kids' environments. We must kill the germs, launch a preemptive attack, before the get you! But I don't buy into that. Sure, I've been known to put Neosporin on a boo-boo or two, but I also look the other way when my little monkeys decide to follow the 5-second rule and pop a bite of food into their mouths that had recently resided on the floor. Grass stains and spilled drinks don't scare me. I don't rush my kids to change clothes so that I can fulfill my purpose in this life by "fighting the stain!" That's ridiculous. I don't want to raise children who fear their environment, germophobes who are afraid to live. I want my kids to get their hands dirty, to join in when there's work to be done, to experience life. I want my kids to have all the joy that there is in this world, and know that it's okay to risk a little to know it.  

For  now, though, we'll start with catching lightning bugs and playing in the dirt with Tonka trucks. 

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