No, not Al Qaeda. Not the NRA. Not even high fructose corn syrup.
While you weren’t paying attention, it has slowly and quietly crept in and is now, as we speak, destroying the souls of the most vulnerable among us—our children.
No, its not bullies at school. Not choking on food. Not even rock and roll.
It’s the parents. It is us. And it is all in the name of cleanliness at the mercy of fear. It must be stopped.
Last Sunday I took my kids to the playground where there is this sand table with a water faucet. See? Already you’re thinking mud and guts. I know! It was a little chilly outside too. But I can’t tell you how awesome it was. It might even go down as one of my favorite memories of watching my kids play. They were cooperating, they were laughing, they were chatting, and their eyes were as bright as the turning leaves. And they were soaking wet and disgustingly dirty. They sat in the puddle of sandy water. The sand got into their fingernails. It got in their hair. It got into their butt cracks. Do you understand? It was everywhere!
After about two minutes my kids realized they had struck gold. It was the World Series of playtimes. Other kids noticed the commotion. Big kids, almost too cool to play in sand would saunter over to see what was happening. Little toddlers, barely able to walk would trek across the sandy divide, itching to dive in. From every corner of the earth they came to look and stare. But not one stayed. Why?
Parents. Damn parents.
“Oh honey, let’s go down the slide instead, THAT looks REALLY dirty and you’ve got a brand new shirt on.”
“Sweetheart, don’t get wet, you’ll get SOOOOO cold.”
“Lollypop, we just did your make up.”
“Tinkertootle, that sand-water combination will give you a rash!”
I cringed every time as a little part of each kid died that glorious autumn Sunday morning. And to be honest, I can be one of those parents too. I get wrapped up in making a plan for the day. I get an idea of how I want things to go. I don’t want to do the work of cleaning up after the mess. I don’t like to see my kids uncomfortable when they get wet and a little cold on a cool fall day.
And they did. As we began the long walk back, the whining and crying started. But you know what? Kids are strong! They are resilient, within reason of course, but usually much hardier than we give them credit for. Sometimes I wonder if we are unknowingly creating an entire race of floppy, cryhappy couch potatoes, ya know? Anyhow, when we got home, they dove straight into a warm bath. Their clothes went straight into the washing machine. You won’t believe it, but within an hour all was clean and well again. Everyone was safe. I had a cup of coffee and– here’s the kicker– the kids took a killer nap.
Children need to be outside and feel dirt in between their fingers if they are going to develop a relationship with the earth, and eventually learn to care for her. They need to learn that they can overcome any amount of discomfort that life can throw their way if they are going to live a courageous and happy life.
Let’s do this together. Send little Lollypop outside without his coat. When you see Tinkertootle get into the dirt, let her linger as long as her concentration will hold her. Please put away the wet-wipes and the hand-sanitizer. They are useless for human development.
Outside is where real people are made. Let’s embrace it, for the sake of our children.