Kids and Dirt

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”
-Phyllis Diller

“BOY n. noise with dirt on it.”
-Not Your Average Dictionary

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”
-E.E. Cummings

There is one anecdote from my training to be a camp counselor that I remember well:
If you are walking in the woods and you see a mud puddle, resist the urge to tell the kids to walk around it. Instead, run straight ahead yelling like a crazy person and jump into that puddle making the biggest possible splash. Then watch as campers follow your lead and cheer them on as the mud flies.

This was a great lesson for me as an adult to be reminded how to have fun in the moment. It is a reminder to teach children to embrace the very simple pleasures of life — and getting dirty as a child is one of the great pleasures of life.

However, in my world as a parent, dirty children does not always equal pleasure. When my children start getting covered with sand in their sandbox, I begin to think of how difficult its going to be to get that sand out of their hair. I wonder what the sand will do to the carpeting. I think about how much longer it will take to make the transition indoors as we try to get all the sand off.

This past spring we were at my brother’s house for lunch after church. My kids were wearing their new Easter outfits. It didn’t take long until they discovered the hole in the backyard that their cousin David had dug. Of course, my kids wanted to get right into that hole in the dirt.

As a camp counselor, I would have immediately said – JUMP IN! As a parent, I thought about the nice clothes they were wearing and the probability that those clothes might never be the same.

Most of us have clean houses, clean cars, clean clothes, and we shower every day. We value clean. That value can collide with our children’s play which often involves getting dirty as an integral part of childhood adventures.  As adults, we need to resist that urge to keep our kids clean so that they can embrace the puddles, sand, dirt, and mud that can be part of a great playtime. And great playtime involves exploring, learning, creating, imagining, building, thinking, learning and FUN!

So on that Sunday afternoon a few months ago, I let my kids climb in that dirt hole with their Easter clothes on. Of course, I understand that in the real world there are times to stay clean and keep our kids clean. But I also think the time and place to get dirty is far more prevalent than most of us would naturally allow.

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