Here?s the dirt on mom and daughter

My grandma loves to tell the story of two young girls who went outside to play. Before long, as my grandma tells it, she passed by a window just in time to see the older of the two smear mud down the front of the other?s coat. The youngest ran to the house crying, ?She got me dirty, she got me dirty.?

Contending that the oldest didn?t want to get in trouble for getting muddy, my grandma laughs about how a dirty coat put the youngest in such hysterics.

And I still don?t like to get dirty. (My cousin knows that, and still makes fun of me. But, hey, better that than getting mud smeared down my front.)

I like my clothes to stay clean and my shoes to look like new. I like my fingernails to remain un-appalling. In the uncommon event that I work in a garden, I insist on wearing gloves.

I just don?t like digging in the dirt.

My daughter, on the other hand, pays no attention to my overarching need for cleanliness.

Her favorite outdoor objects are dirt, sand and rocks.

My husband and I have an old wooden washtub filled with dirt (it has been used as a container garden in years past). My newly-turned 16-month-old loves transferring handfuls of dirt from the washtub to her purple bucket.

But, she doesn?t set the bucket close to the dirt?s origination. Instead, she places the bucket several steps away and walks back and forth to fill her pail. She leaves a trail of fine powder as the dirt sifts through her fingers onto the sidewalk and steps. She also invariably ends up with dirt smudges on her shorts, shirt and face.

My daughter?s love for dirt makes it next to impossible to keep her clothes looking like new. Even a bottle of protein-fighting Era mixed with Clorox 2 doesn?t get all the stains out of the clothes. I had a vision for re-using her clothes for future children?but, I don?t want them looking like vagabonds.

In addition to the dirt-pot, my toddler has a Little Tikes turtle sandbox in our backyard. In my opinion, sand isn?t as much a nuisance as dirt?mostly because it is vaguely reminiscent of my favorite outdoor activity?laying on a beach while relaxing in the sun and listening to the surf.

But, playing in the sand is only enjoyable with hand extensions?shovels, pails and other digging devices.

One sand lesson I learned quickly is to take off her diaper while still outside. Even a short time in the sandbox allows for a diaper full of sandy mess?and that?s not something I want in my house.

Rocks are most fun when played with in sets of three?at least according to my daughter. (This is also her theory when it comes to the majority of her toys?particularly balls.) She holds an object in each hand, plus tucks another under her arm. A form, I?m sure, any football coach could appreciate.

In comparison with dirt and sand, rocks are something I don?t mind holding?provided they aren?t dirt-caked or insect-ridden.

Major differences in outdoor play aren?t something I?ve come across in a parenting-handbook. And, though I?m not big on reading ?self-help? books, I?m sure there?s one (or two, or three?) that say something like, ?Don?t stifle your child?s individuality or imagination.?

And, I?m sure the author(s) have made a lot of money by publishing such common-sense. The last thing I need is an exact mini-me walking around. Oh, the horror!

So, I choose to sit outside and watch my daughter get her hands?and shorts, shirt and face?dirty. I comfort myself knowing I have an outdoor hose to wash her skin, towels to brush off sand, and Stain Stick to treat her clothes. And, if the stains don?t come out, I officially dub the item as ?play clothes.?

I want my daughter to develop her own opinions about her likes and dislikes. And, it?s OK if her likes and dislikes are different from mine.

But, I am proud to say that she can stomp ants with the best of them?.

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