I grew up playing with dirt. I grew up lifting rocks, collecting salamanders, crawfish and wooly bears. My nails and hands were always filthy. I was constantly outside digging and exploring the woods around our Central Pennsylvania home. I loved the outdoors, which is why I am really itching to get out of Brooklyn and find something a little more environmentally satisfying for my son. Plus, I think I’m making poor decisions as a city-dwelling mama.
Yesterday I took Em to the park. I take him to the park every day at least once. Our afternoon jaunt usually consists of some exploration. I wrangle him into some shoes and I let him run around a bit. He always goes straight for the dirt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a foot-wide patch of dirt surrounding an out-of-place tree or a bigger patch worn down by soccer matches. He will find the dirt. He loves dirt. He loves picking up sticks and pieces of bark. He carries them around like souvenirs. It’s adorable really.
I generally try not to concern myself with how other parents raise their children. Unless it directly effects me in some way, it’s none of my business. And I should hope that others aren’t judging me for how I raise my own. But sometimes I have to concern myself with what I’m doing when dealing with other families. It’s the whole social contract thing. If my son is playing with another child, I should keep an eye on what he’s doing and how they’re reacting to what he’s doing. I won’t lie. This is very difficult especially for someone like me who spends too much time worrying about what others think. And it’s becoming increasingly more difficult as he gets older. This is perhaps the most trying aspect of having a toddler for me so far—figuring out what the other parent is thinking and if I should react.
Yesterday Emory was running around with another little girl. She was probably five months his senior but smaller in size. They were playing with her rubber ball. He stopped every now and again to pick up sticks in the patch of dirt surrounding the tree. I let him. I figured that since the little girl’s guardians where letting her play with a rubber ball that had been all over the dirt and pavement, letting my kid play with dirt while playing with their little girl was OK. At one point, a bit nervous about the situation, I said, “Em, why do you have to play in the dirt all the time?” (Incidentally, it’s funny the number of times I ask Em a question which is really meant for the person listening in. But that’s a post for another day—”talking through the baby” is what we call it.)
The girl’s guardians shrugged and said, “He’s a boy.”
So this continued. Em picked up dirt and sticks and giant pieces of bark as the little girl teased him with her rubber ball. He’d touch her face with his hands, and her hands to his. There were a few times Em would grab the ball and try and put it in his mouth. I would snatch it up right away and wipe the spit on my pants.
“Em, do you have to put everything in your mouth!” I said.
“He’s a boy.” They shrugged.
Fifteen minutes into our spontaneous play-date with complete strangers, the little girl bent down and picked up a handful of dirt. Her father ran over and lightly slapped the top of her hand. “NO! CACA!” He said.
Realizing the error of her ways, she immediately dropped the dirt, sticks and bark, which Emory proceeded to collect. I mean, who would let perfectly good dirt go to waste like that? Not my kid.
I need to have another child. That way, I can let my filthy children run around, eat dirt, slobber all over one another and I won’t have to worry about whether I’m poisoning someone else’s child.
I’m gonna breed me my own little filthy family.
Do you let your little ones play in the dirt at a public playground? How do you teach them not to? I can’t figure this out. I realize that city dirt can be questionable, but how do you keep a toddler from playing in the dirt? You’d have to keep him or her inside all the time. I can’t allow for that. He simply has to get outside time. But I can’t stop him from playing with dirt either. Am I not being cautious enough while parenting and living in the city?
Parenting is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. That’s all there is to it. (But it’s awesome too!)