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Go Ahead, Baby — Get Dirty!

We walked up to the front door when she stopped suddenly. My first intention was to gently nudge her and say, “Come on, baby. Let’s go.”

But I stopped myself and watched the back of her head go from glancing down to her feet, to the sky and then to the left. To the left was a sticky pile of mud. Warmed by the Florida sun, the pile caught her eyes, and before I knew it she plunged both of her little hands in the mini mud pit.

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“Wait. No!” I cried.

But it was too late. Within four seconds the mud had been slathered on her shirt, through her hair and her brand new pair of sandals were covered by the mystery goo. I was mortified. And terrified. I wanted to grab her and run straight to the bathroom and rinse it all off. But something stopped me. Her smile. She looked backed at me and giggled. I watched her mush the mud in her hands. I watched as she ran her fingers through last night’s rain mixed with this day’s dirt and she was elated. She was having a blast. How could I stop this? Why would I stop this?

Allowing my girl to play in the mud that day, I believe, sparked a new mindset for me.

I am not a mud lovin’ girl. Truthfully, I am not a nature girl. I love the beach and I enjoy taking runs outside but I’m not one to go hiking or camping. I get annoyed when it’s too hot and I can’t stand snow. And have I mentioned that mud grosses me out?

My almost 2-year-old doesn’t know this. I’m guessing that if she did know, she wouldn’t care. She’s new to this life thing and can’t be bothered to hold herself back on account of mama’s issues. She is fearless, and when mud calls her name, she answers.

Allowing my girl to play in the mud that day, I believe, sparked a new mindset for me, one that I’m sure many parents may already follow. Of course there’s a time and place (ideally not at 7 a.m. as we head to school and work) but I’ve learned to not be so quick to tell my daughter to stop playing in dirt. If she feels so inclined to plop in the grass, I let her. If in the indoor playground she decides to ignore every other toy and obstacle there except the sandbox, I help her climb in. I am learning how to quiet my Helicopter Mom. We all have one of those, and mine is particularly loud when a mess is involved.

“Are you really going to let her smear oatmeal all over her tray?”

“Finger painting? Oh heavens no! That is such a mess!”

“That mud will never come out of those shoes. You just bought those shoes!”

“She’s a little girl. She shouldn’t be playing in dirt.”

I had to punch Helicopter Mom for the last statement because ... seriously? Because my daughter is a girl, she shouldn’t get dirty? Says who? Should she be inside playing with dolls, a play kitchen and rockin’ a pink apron? Give me a break.

As a woman who doesn’t play into the “roles of a wife and mother” ideology, I was so surprised at how I subconsciously allowed myself to think such things.

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Do we really want to raise little girls who are afraid to get dirty? Do we want them to value their crisp clean clothes over uncovering something fascinating deep down in the mud? I don’t. I now get down with my girl and I play in the dirt with her. I’ve pushed my anxiety of paints getting on the carpet, walls, chairs, everywhere to the side and we paint until we can’t paint anymore.

At the end of the day, it’s all washable. But what can’t be washed away are the experiences and explorative capabilities that I am giving this brilliant little mind.

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