Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two Buckets of Dirt

Because I want this blog to be a venue for exploring the true experience of parenthood, I’m going to reveal one of my less illustrious features of motherhood. I’m very liberal when it comes to what I allow River to put into his mouth (especially since I read that taste is a prime means of exploration at this age) and it doesn’t bother me at all when he eats something off the floor.

This isn’t something I announce widely. I suspect a lot of mothers would criticize me for this. I know I’m not the only one though. At least one of my friends has told me she thinks it’s great when her daughter comes across leftover food on the floor in their house.

“Hey, it’s a snack,” she says.

I thought about this issue today due to an incident at a pizza joint. After going to the gym late this morning, I carried River, my bag and his bag of stuff out to the car. It was drizzling and we’d had to park far away. River is now in the 25 pound range and it’s truly hard to balance him and the stuff. I put the bags in the car, picked him up again and stopped in a pizza place to get myself a slice for lunch. Upon reaching the counter, my tired arms placed him on the floor. I received a couple of surprised or critical looks, but they didn’t bother me.

After a few minutes, a woman approached me. “His food is on the floor,” she said, in a very concerned tone, referring to the half-bagel he’d been working on. I didn’t think it was worth discussing my parenting values with this woman. So I faked concern and picked up the bagel. When we walked out of the shop and were out of that woman’s eyesight, I handed the bagel back to River.

“Here you go,” I said. He took it gladly. I would have liked to have seen her face if I’d told her River may well have eaten his own poop.

Doing something I felt I needed to hide from that woman made me wonder if I was treating him badly. I thought that I would eat the bagel myself so I guess it’s not hypocritical to offer it to River.

My husband has a significantly lower grossed-out threshold than I do (though it’s rising since River’s birth). But when I told him this story, even he thought it was perfectly rational to give River the bagel.

“People can get so funny about those things,” he said.

I thought back to where my comfort with a little dirt comes from and one of my grandmothers came to mind. I was lucky enough to have three grandmothers growing up. All were Midwestern, hardworking and strong. One in particular always encouraged me to eat food after I’d dropped it. “Everyone will eat two buckets of dirt in their lifetime,” she would say.

I have no idea where she got the two buckets from, but I took it as gospel and have repeated it to myself every time I drop something. Unless I drop it in a puddle of mud, I’ll probably salvage it. What is a few specks in comparison to the buckets that will be consumed? Nothing. Just now, curious to see if I could find a figure, I did a google search and found this article. Unsurprisingly, it comes from the Midwest. Then, of course, there are people who gobble down vast quantities of soil, even make cookies with it.

So yes, it’s not ideal. I don’t feed him dirt on purpose. But if a few specks happen to get in every so often, in the long run, I don’t think it will do him any harm.

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