I Will Select the Dirt You Choose to Eat, Thank You Very Much.


Most parents know now that this preoccupation with antimicrobial handwashes and sanitizing wipes is tidying us all up a little too much for our own good. It seems we need some good old fashioned dirt and grime to maintain good health. The only problem is there is nothing old fashioned nor supposedly good about dirt these days.

My neighbor alerted me that I might want to reconsider using leaves in a collective compost area because the pile might be bringing arsenic (from post-copper smeltering days and drifting particulates that have settled) up through the soils. We live on a ridge that overlooks a river listed as a Superfund site (http://www.epa.gov/superfund/). I try not to look at the news stories where a kid scrapes his leg on an outdoor basketball court and gets some flesh-eating disease.

WTF, World? Really. Didn’t we make fun of Howard Hughes and his obsessive compulsive preoccupation of staying clean? Weren’t we the generation of kids that swallowed mouthfuls of dust each time we skidded out in our Hot Wheels? It seems our juvenile love for dirt didn’t translate into us advocating to keep our dirt clean. 

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” 
 Wendell BerryThe Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

I shuddered twice today – first, as my son picked up handful upon handfuls of dirt and threw them in the air and then twice, as I said “No, no, no!” Isn’t part of being a kid connecting with the natural world from the ground up? I know this and yet I can’t let go of this urge to keep him from bathing in the stuff. Perhaps there should be a third shudder when I look at my own lack of knowledge on the state of the soils in my backyard and my apathy that keeps me from doing this research.

I think it all comes back to the things we can’t see. We couldn’t see CFCs or heavy metals or all the other nasties that were being spewed out by industrial processes and consumer products all around us. And now we can’t see where they’ve all landed, but we have good sense to know the world is not a completely natural place anymore. We have systems to help filter at least a fraction of the damage.

So perhaps my million dollar idea is creating a dirt resort. I will build an oasis of the world’s best silty-clay-loam mixes, smelling of forest floors and lacking in industrial additives. Small children will play there. The pica afflicted will nibble there. Without guilt and the toxic load.

All sarcasm aside, aren’t we all straddling some teeter-totter between what we fear and what we let our kids experience?

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About unapologetictasha

I love the struggles and joys of things; what I learn about parenting, I learn about life. I am a stay-at-home vegan mom who has a strict regimen of daily in-house dance parties. My kids and I love art, nature, and books.
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2 Responses to I Will Select the Dirt You Choose to Eat, Thank You Very Much.

  1. I was raised by parents who thought nothing of dirt, cleanliness, what I ate and so forth. As a result, I think I was exposed to so many different types of germs and bacteria that I have built up a strong immune system and I am extremely rarely ever sick…except for those occasional colds caught from the kids. Worrying about dangers everywhere would be very stressful. I have all I can do worrying about if my kid crosses the street without looking, or uses a sharp knife. If I worried about all of the possible dangers, I’d be too anxious to be a happy parent, and my husband and kids LOVE a happy mom!

    • 5kidswithdisabilities, I completely agree! We have to pick our battles. I am working daily to learn new ways to keep my cup of worry from running over and I bet you could teach me a few things in this department.

      I guess what I’m really trying to get at isn’t just the fear of any old potential danger that might impact my kids. It is me trying to mitigate my social responsibility to improve this world (hopefully modeling for my little ones that it is just what we ought to do) while letting my kids experience personal freedom – especially in play – and still reducing their exposure to unnecessary excesses of toxins. It’s tricky.

      Comparing what the world was like when we were kids to now is moot to me. The world is a different place. We know now that sewage is still there when you dump it in the open ocean, the garbage is still there when you bury it underground, and pollutants are still in our atmosphere when they leave smokestacks or muffler pipes. My kids could be exposed to an unlimited amount of toxins through what they eat, drink, and breathe but I choose to limit that exposure so they have clean systems to combat all the things they will in the future. It is vital that they be exposed to colds, germs, and dirt. It just saddens me that with all the beauty in this world, it has a level of being sick from the inside out.

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