March 14, 2007

White Trash Mama

And then one day you wake up and realize you're white trash.

I simply hadn't noticed before. But something about the freshness of Spring rammed it down my throat. My child's face is generally covered with dirt, we don't own matching chairs for the kitchen table, our nice wedding plates are mostly broken and we instead use the pink, plastic variety from the dollar store. It's not a bad way to live, but it wasn't until this week that I realized how pretty everyone around us has gotten.

My husband and I were both raised in hand-me-down clothes. With the exception of birthdays, we didn't receive many luxury items throughout the year. We played outside whenever possible, our clothing was stained, our haircuts disastrous, and a dirty face was the badge of a great day. Our standards for our own child are based on these memories. But are these standards outdated? The ugly 80's we were raised in are far behind us and we are face to face with our own dirty, mismatched, grinning girl.

Every kid at our local park is dressed to the nines in expensive clothing with their hair perfectly arranged. They arrive at the sandbox in a luxury Barbie Car pushed by their exquisite mothers. The mothers tote fashionable bags brimming with toys, their faces serene. Until they see my little girl. She's the barefoot one running enthusiastically for their bag of goodies with the black hands and snot-tangled hair. They instinctively draw back in horror and reach for the Purell hand sanitizer - what is this urchin doing at their park? Heaven forbid she touch their white child! They quickly glance around to find who is responsible for this creature and I meet their eyes with a friendly smile. Go ahead - tell my kid she can't play with your precious toys. I could use a laugh.

I do bath my child. I brush her hair daily. I try and make sure when we leave the house her clothes are clean. But somehow by the time we actually reach the car it's all for naught. A handful of dirt she grabbed from a pot has already been smeared across her cheeks, a rubber band from her pigtail has snapped and her recently changed diaper is suspiciously droopy. And I don't care. I guess that's where the white trash in me kicks in.

I have a sister who is very particular about her children being well groomed in public. The children change clothes frequently throughout the day and any pictures of them could easily make the cut for a Gymboree magazine. My sister tells me that people treat her children better when they are clean and I believe it. It's not fair to disadvantage children by presenting them poorly. But how do you find the time to put that theory into practice? I know my daughter isn't winning any style points from the black under her fingernails but do I really have to clean them every five minutes? Because I don't. On Sundays she's a immaculate, sparkling angel but for the rest of the week, I let her play how and where she wants. And she wants to play in the dirt.

This could result in my daughter looking at her pictures when she's twenty and fuming about my 'disregard' for her. I hope not. I hope she grows up to be the kind of person who can appreciate the subtle joys of the dirty side of life. That's one lesson I'm well qualified to teach.

18 comments:

Jamie J said...

Well I think we are right there with you. My kid is not super dirty because there's not a lot of dirt to play in around here, but her hair is wildly crazy! I try to do it in the morning--if she lets me--and by 10 am when and if we are walking out the door we're lucky if it even looks like it's been done. Rachel is one happy kid whether her clothes are clean or her hair is done and I think that's what matters most. For what it's worth I do think about dressing her nicely when we go outside, but then I stress too much if she DOES get dirty. Changing clothes multiple times a day?? I don't want to do that much laundry...

Toni said...

You have been in CA too long! Come back to TEXAS!

cruncha said...

For the most part I think Penny is fine. Kids are supposed to play and have fun. The only thing that I would worry about is this: Child molesters prey on children whom they believe nobody cares about. But there is a difference in clothing that got dirty playing today, and clothing that has 3 days worth of dirt on it. Just make sure she looks like someone loves her. And judging from the pics of her you have posted, she looks well loved. I too grew up in hand me downs. Mom cut my hair, and it looked like it. My six siblings and I looked like street urchins. Not such a good thing. . .

Anyhow, I think you are a great mom, and Penny is a lucky little girl.

Bek said...

With a face like that, who could resist that girl? I know what you mean though, a few of my mom friends come to the park in all their jewelry and high heeled sandals and children in not only clean but MATCHING clothes.... and they run in the morning with lipstick on....

Anyway, try having your kid be the only black one. That is exactly the reason that I make sure that Cubbo's hair is always done and he is always clean and even, gasp, preppy. I don't need another reason for people to gasp at my kid at the park.... but with my white child? It is snot noses and matted hair all the way... funny, huh?

glittersmama said...

I think all of those women have nannies! Because who has the energy to pay that much attention to detail and still have time to leave the house before dark? Not me, that's for sure. I grew up playing in the yard making ice cream with our Big Wheel and a stick, and I always had a dirty face. And not to get anything started, but I think child molesters will go after any kids they can get their hands on-- not just the ones with dirty faces and wild hair.

Jill said...

You go! That's how I was raised, too, and it was great. I see kids all happy and dirty and messy and I see fun and love.

s'mee said...

I can vividly remember telling my offspring to "go get dirty, get into trouble, have some fun" if things were getting dull. Yes, when we went out they were clean, but to a park? Isn't that a good place to get dirty, find some harmless trouble and have some fun?

Penny will be well adjusted and fine. Dirt under the nails can always be washed off when you go home, she can always take a bath before "going out". There is a difference between a park and a museum.

Janell said...

What more matters so long as she is respectful of others, moderately well behaved, and happy? Forget the Gymboree kids and their prim mothers; they're all just dressing up for each other anyway.

Amy said...

It is physically impossible to keep the snot wiped from my son's nose. One second I've cleared all the snot and the next second it's dripping from his nose to his mouth and down his chin. When I go to the park, I have no place judging anyone's snotty-nosed kids.

Sarah said...

I didn't think most of you were going to disagree with me on this one. But those snotty women at the park with their precious porcelain doll children at the park just get to me!

compulsive writer said...

Best advice I ever got regarding childraising:

If they're not dirty they're not having fun.

AzĂșcar said...

For me, it's about the sequence of events. Whether consciously or not, I guess I plan my day on a sliding scale of acceptable appearances.

First, no getting ready until after breakfast--especially when syrup is involved. When we head out the door, first come the important errands, coincidentally at the same time as El Guille is well groomed, matched, and clean.

As the day progresses, he slides into matted hair and filthy fingers--just in time for daddy to come home and a visit to the park. I still try to do a washup before lunch or naptime to keep day time gross under control.

If we had a back yard, though, I'm not sure what kind of condition would be maintained.

Melissa said...

This sounds like my Baby Girl. She gets out of the tub and is somehow dirty before I can blink. We do what we can to keep her clean, but let's be realistic here... she's just gonna get dirty again! So what's the point? I suppose I could turn her into a prissy little thing that cries at the sight of dirt... but I need someone to play in the sandbox with me!

Mary said...

Well of course, there is a simple solution Sarah:
Let Bethany into your life! Penny will thank you for it later.

Anonymous said...

oooh, aren't all you mommies just the biggest rogues because you let your kids get dirty! It is feel-good day at hollywood flakes. The whole internet, and I am here? BYE!!!!

Sarah said...

Wait, no! I really want to be your friend!! PLEASE come back and leave snarky comments on ALL my posts! I promise each one will be crappier than the last. Cross my heart hope to die. COME BACK!

Bex said...

Some people need to lighten up!! Let them be kids!

Aldea Ladies said...

I have a hard enough time keeping my own fingernails clean. I try to get the boy's clean for Sunday, but every other day...no guarantee. I've also learned that if I'm going to get the boy's pictures taken, I have to take their "photo" clothes separately and wait until the photographer is standing-by before I put on the good stuff. (We don't get pictures taken very often these days...)