Saturday, April 21, 2012

The grass-stain epiphany

A couple of months ago I took the boys to my hometown in Mississippi for a visit. One of their favorite parts of being there is the inevitable mud puddle in my parents' driveway... A couple of weeks ago I received a letter in the mail from my grandmother (because she writes letters; it's so sweet) that said she was so surprised to drive up and see the boys playing, fully clothed, in the puddle. She called it "unconventional" parenting, not in a bad way, but just emphasized it was not something she would have let her children do all those years ago.

It's not the first time I've heard such sentiments. I hear quite frequently "You let them do what?" or "You let them play where?" or "You let them make that mess?" and my answer is unapologetically always yes.

(Okay, sometimes apologetically, as I'm the one who has to clean them and whatever else afterwards, but you get my drift.)

You may call it adventures in parenting, but its more than that. I don't enjoy cleaning any more than the next person, and scrubbing dirt out of body parts I didn't know existed isn't one of my favorite activities, but I do take secret joy out of the messes.

You see, it was right about two years ago, not long after Dax's 2nd birthday, that a friend talked me into taking the boys to the zoo for the first time. We were just getting out of RSV season and the boys hadn't really been outside much, but it was a beautiful day. We stopped on the grassy knoll area to rest and eat a snack, and Dax, who hadn't been crawling well for very long, set out to explore. It was then that I saw his shoes... His pristine white Nikes he'd been wearing for months... had grass stains. Grass stains! And there I was, crying like a fool in the middle of the zoo.

Dax had never gotten shoes dirty before. I took pictures of them, I was so proud.

I swore at that very moment that I would never be upset over muddy shoes or stained clothes... Because that's what living looks like, and that's what little boys are supposed to do. And we had almost missed out on it.

So, yes, I let my boys get muddy, and I let them get dirty, and I let them play hard.

I have able-bodied boys and a good washing machine.

I am blessed.