Sunday, September 8, 2013

getting dirty

We have grass in 90% of the backyard, but my children like to play in the one sliver of dirt in the back corner by the fence where we haven't bothered to landscape yet. They dig in it and add water to it and carry it around in buckets and sometime they even roll around in it. We call it their special "dirt patch" and it provides more entertainment than any of their toys ever have.

Once upon a time I claimed that Annike didn't need a bath very often. Then we had Sommer. Then they discovered dirt.  Now they take baths an awful lot. Usually because of dirt under the fingernails, or in their hair, or some sticky streak that has run down a chest and collected dirt.

In the dirt patch are some lizards that visit periodically. Annike, feeling pet-deprived, began building pretend habitats for the lizards and carrying around an empty terrerium. She kept roly polys in it for a while, but that wasn't satisfying her. Eventually she ended up with 2 baby blue-bellied lizards that were named, in a stroke of 4-year-old genius, "Lizzy #1" and "Lizzy #2". I insisted they would be kept outside, and she could keep them as long as she was willing to feed them. Why do mothers bother with these futile words?

Six hours after the cage was moved into the house for the first time, BOTH lizards went missing. They did turn up a few hours later when Papa emptied out the cage and discovered them buried in the dirt on the bottom. I soon found myself catching flies with a cup instead of swatting them, then lowering them gently into the cage. I caught ants and beetles and roly polys and hunted for wormy apples in our orchards to feed the lizards. We were going for a variety of bugs because we weren't sure what was edible, but it seemed to me that these tiny lizards could only eat the bugs that were also small enough to squeeze through the air holes in the roof of the cage, so was I really just adding critters to my home instead of feeding lizards? I felt a little indignant about it all because I am supposed to be a mother of GIRLS, so don't I get to avoid bug-catching, lizard-feeding, filthy fingernail scraping duty?

But you can't be afraid to get dirty in life. Life is full of things we never pictured ourselves doing. We avoid the dirt because it means extra work later... a bath, or a good scrubbing of something or someone. Or we avoid it because we don't like the way it makes us feel being dirty. I never want my life to be about keeping a white t-shirt crisp and ironed. Good clothes can be washed, and good stories are seldom clean. It is all part of the adventure.

We can't be afraid to dive into the muck in someone's life either. People's lives are rarely sparkly clean. Instead they are full of junk, full of garbage hidden below the surface, full of dirt. Mine included. Getting down into the dirty in someone's life often involves extra work. It involves loving people in a less than perfect state. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes a willingness to get dirty myself. But in the end it is all part of the adventure called doing life with others. And I never want to be afraid of it.

My girls aren't afraid to hold lizards, or catch bugs, or get dirty. And I hope one day that they aren't afraid to dive into the dirt in the lives of those they love. Hopefully with the idea of getting cleaner in the end. Because the dirtier we get, the better it feels to be clean.

We did have to release Annike's lizards after a few weeks of allowing them to reside in her room. She cried fat silent tears as she said goodbye to them, but put on a brave face because she knew it was the right thing to do. We weren't sure they were actually eating anything that we put in the cage. Unfortunately, we were only able to release one of the lizards as the other one had completely vanished. Better not to ask when or where it may have escaped... we will imagine that it is not running around my house and mysteriously ended up outside.

Life is sometimes sad, sometimes dirty, but never dull. And we are aren't afraid of what it holds.

P.S. The dirt in the back yard may be one reason that my children never have any clothes on... we have discovered it is easier to hose them off than to change outfits every hour. It is a system that works for us and helps us enjoy the dirt a little bit more...

This one was Sommer's favorite: a "fwoggy" that shared the terrerium with the Lizzys for a few days.

1 comment:

  1. "Because the dirtier we get, the better it feels to be clean." May this be true of our children's hearts! : )

    on a natural mama note, when our kids get dirty outside, they are actually helping build a healthy culture of probiotics in their guts!


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