I’m Proud of Their Stains

A few weeks ago, I had to take Scout to the pediatrician because I was finding myself unable to combat her raging athletes foot (kids is gross, point 1). When we sat her down on the exam table, infinitely better lit than most of my house, we discovered on her hands:

  • yogurt
  • playground dirt
  • Play Doh
  • paint

(But no fungus there! So that’s something!)

And I thought to myself, looking at my disgusting child, Well, either I’ve become fully negligent, or I’m doing something right.

After some reflection, I kind of lean toward the latter. It doesn’t always feel like it when I’m down in the murder basement / laundry room, trying to remove watercolor paint from khaki or egg yolk from pajamas (why does she like them so underdone, kids is gross, point 2).

But kids should get to be messy. And it’s something I’ve actually gotten better at lately, between an endless, generous flow of hand-me-downs, pregnancy exhaustion that makes arguing over small things not worth it, and a new focus on what is educational and enriching for my kids’ education now that I’m in charge of it.

Not everything they wear will be an heirloom, I tell myself as Pippin absentmindedly chews the collar of his favorite shirt in concentration. Sometimes Scout will con her papa into letting her wear a favorite dress on a day we go down to the park, and it’s not the end of the world if I can’t get every last shadow of playground mulch out of the back of it. Everyday use, my friends.

We have standards, of course. There are rules. I try to keep church clothes fairly pristine, even if I’m not going to iron. (This is partially out of a secret belief that if my kids are cutely dressed enough at church no one will notice their misdeeds.) Even play shirt sleeves may not be used as napkins. After the Summer of the Raging Foot Fungus mentioned above, everyone better be dang sure to wear socks with his or her galoshes Or Else.

So one small measure of the success of our days, these days, is how messy the kids get. Maybe someone has paint on his forehead, or ink on his fingers from fingerprinting criminals. Maybe Scout’s hair has yogurt in it, again. Maybe the dining room table, where we hold school, shows evidence of our bean art or PlayDoh creations or stray crayons. Maybe we are all fairly dusted with flour.

I’m beginning to see stains as evidence of a life well lived.


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