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 But are these standards outdated?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.