Monday, October 1, 2007

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all...

My kid goes out with a dirty face.

Before I had kids, I was regularly disgusted by little rug-rats with those smudgy marks all over . What kind of parent lets their kid go out like that? In public!

I have the answer now: me. It's not that it doesn't bother me. In fact, every time I open the car door to find M's face bearing the remains of breakfast or lunch or whatever he ate in between, I let out an audible groan. But cleaning his face would require fishing through the diaper bag for a wipe, pinning him down while wiping, then wiping some more after he finished screaming. Since I'm running late about 90% of the time, it's easier for me to just let it go. After all, at least we made it to the park/gym/church. That in itself is a miracle.

(I sense here that there might be some moms out there who use the old lick-the-thumb trick to wipe their kids faces. I have a permanent phobia of the smell of spit from my mom using said trick, which I have vowed not to pass along to M and K. I do now understand why she used this trick, but I have to abide by my principles.)

The funny thing is that I don't ever hear anyone comment about M's dirty face. I'm sure they might think a few things to themselves from time to time, but no one actually calls me on it, like, "Step it up, Mom, and clean the poor kid." I do, however, get lots of comments on M's shyness, such as, "Why won't he play?" or "Does he ever have fun?" or occasionally, "What's wrong with him?" Even close friends prod me on his personality as though I somehow wanted to make my son turn out the way he did. M is M. I can't help that, no matter how I've tried. So why would people feel like they can criticize something I can't control while ignoring the obvious shortcomings that I can control?

I guess maybe they don't comment on his face because then they'd have set the standard that their kids had to have clean faces too. Or maybe they too can live with the dirty face but not the kid who clings. Except isn't that my problem? When did our kids have to fit into these predetermined molds? And who came up with those molds anyway? Why can't our kids just be what they are, dirty or bossy or preppy or shy or whatever? They're individuals, after all, and not just extensions of ourselves.

Yes, and M's dirty face is just my way of breaking out the mold made for parents. Okay, I know. That was pushing it.


Melissa said...

We could assume they just really want M to be comfortable and happy, and know better than to care about the little stuff like dirt.

Except that's nonsense, because pointing out someone's discomfort rarely makes them more comfortable, and because M is often obviously happy within his comfort zone--the other parents just aren't comfortable with where his comfort zone ends.

People are ridiculous sometimes. (Or maybe I'm just a little crabby.)

Also, dirt helps build his immune system. You're making a healthy lifestyle choice, see?

Heather said...

I'm all about benign neglect. see, I'm helping my kid not to be smothered by not worrying about little things like germs! I have a plan!
And I think our culture has kind of a weird phobia about kids needing to be social. Why should they be social at age two? M just needs his own space for a while. When he's ready, he'll be just as social as he needs to be.