Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing In The Dirt

A friend of mine attended an education conference last week where there was a session on "nature deficit disorder", she updated her facebook status on Saturday asking why our society is so obsessed with avoiding messes and dirt.
I reflected on that a while because I make an effort to get my children outdoors and to national parks and to learn about plants and animals and keep them connected with the root source of where all their food and most of their stuff comes from. Despite my desire to keep them connected to the land, the messes DO bother me though. In the short term, it's just a pain to get them clean again sometimes. I've changed their clothes and done "baby wipe baths" in the car, wiped them down with a washcloth at a campground water spigot, done my best to get their feet clean, but cringed as they tromped over my sleeping bag getting into the tent. I've carried them from the front door straight to the bathtub and still had to go back and clean up mud or finger paint or who knows what else along the hallway. It's a lot of extra effort. Especially back in Texas, where they need a shower at lunchtime and are likely to be sweaty and dirty again before dinner time.
Longer term, I think there's a bigger issue though. Years ago, it became prestigious and respected to not have to farm your own land. It was a status symbol to be clean all the time. The blue collar workers worked hard, washed up the best they could for dinner and saved their Sunday best for Sunday. Somewhere along the way, I think we started looking down on that and it became low class to work hard and get dirty. That has filtered down to our children and because of all the effort to get them cleaned up at times, some people just avoid letting them get dirty in the first place. It doesn't take long at all for the kids themselves to start avoiding the dirt. Rather than ask to wash their hands, they just refuse to touch the mess all together. And then, what do they truly understand about where their food comes from, the wood for their house, the paper they write on, the clothes they wear? Not to mention, the important lessons of digging a hole that won't collapse, the right ratio of water to dirt for the perfect mud pie and what critters live in what types of soil.

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