I haven't figured this out yet . . .
When my son was born, he was the center of my world. The first child often is the center of a parent’s world. There’s also a massive attention disparity between a firstborn and any subsequent children. As sad as it is to admit, all the fanfare goes to the firstborn. That’s why firstborns are always the heirs to thrones and held in such high regard throughout several cultures. By nature, we’re always excited by the first of something.
And even when planning to have a first child, actually holding your firstborn in your arms is surprising. No amount of planning can prepare you for that feeling or the experience it will bring. That’s why it can be difficult for many parents to relax when it comes to their firstborn. We coddle them, we’re protective, we sometimes can have difficulty leaving them with others. We try to control everything around them so when the situation arises where they might accidentally poke themselves in the eye with the corner of a copy of, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, they don’t.
When my eldest was about a year old, we started going to the park more often. He loved running around, climbing on the jungle gym, and picking up whatever he found on the ground. He’s two and a half now and none of that has changed, but my attitude toward picking up whatever off the ground has. The first time he scooped a handful of dirt and started rubbing it between his fingers and flinging it like a monkey, I freaked out. I went into daddy protective mode and pulled out the baby wipes to wipe off the dirt from his hands. As soon as I got them clean he did it again. I didn’t even realize I was such a clean freak until I became a parent.
I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it if the week before my wife hadn’t told me about some kid who, on the same playground, dropped his pants, urinated nearby, and went right back to playing. No one blinked an eye to this surprising act of public urination. The other kids went about playing and it was as if the other parents didn’t even notice there was a kid peeing very near where their children were playing. I wasn’t there, but my wife’s retelling of it was enough to send me into a panic when our son picked up dirt where some other kid could have possibly urinated or done who knows what else, and started playing with it like it was sand at the beach. That’s why ignorance is bliss.
So after fussing over my son’s dirty hands for far too long, I realized that I was once a kid too. My parents let me play in the dirt without freaking out. What kind of adult would I have turned out to be if they had? I had to let go. I had to be selfish by letting the consequences of my son’s actions take their course. If he got something, I’d just have to deal with it.
Nothing happened to him, thank goodness, and I’d like to report that no harm can come from playing with dirt, but that’s not true. A couple of weeks ago my daughter, also now one year old, picked up dirt and did the same thing with it at the park near our house. I let it be, she put her hands in her mouth a few times, but I just let it be. Now she has Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. While there are dirtier things than dirt in this world, it still isn’t clean.