There still might be two feet of snow on the ground here in Ontario, but spring is around the corner. I know this not by the new songbirds I hear in my backyard, but by how utterly filthy my kids are when they come home from school. Even Isaac's snow pants—that I bought in a sensible shade of dark grey—can't hide the dirt he managed to find on the playground. And if the playground mud wasn't enough, he found a puddle to lay down in last night as we biked home from a playdate.
"But I thought you liked it when we were dirty!" he defended himself when I yelled at him for seeking out our road's deepest and most disgusting-looking mud puddle.
And he was right. I'm always telling him and his sister that a messy kid is a happy kid—at least that's the way it is in my family. Growing up, I spent all spring running around our farm barefoot, finding puddles to jump in. Our boots were usually tossed aside because they were already full of water from wading through knee-high puddles. I remember falling asleep most nights with the sun still in the sky and dirt still under my fingernails, refusing to completely wash my hands because I loved pressing them against my face and breathing in the smell of the outdoors.
Over the years, research has suggested links between the increased use of antibacterial wipes and hand soaps and a rise in allergies and asthma. Even the Food and Drug Association (FDA) has found that plain old soap and water does just as good a job at removing dirt as the antibacterial soaps, but with the added benefit of leaving immunity boosting germs behind. For parents like Lauren Wright, soaping up during her son's bath aggravated his eczema, leading her to skip the daily wash routine. Her Washington Post story about why she doesn't give her kids baths every day went viral, with many comments on the post and in my social media feeds saying something negative about the effects of soap.
But to tell you the truth, my reasons for not giving my own kids a bath every day and encouraging messy play have absolutely nothing to do with soap. Here's three reasons why I'm skipping bath time tonight:
1) Dirt helps kids get in touch with nature Admittedly, I have no scientific data to back up this claim. All I have are kids who fearlessly tread through mud to catch frogs, rescue worms and forage for wild edibles. I believe my not having to wipe their hands and faces every time they get dirty helps foster their love of the outdoors. Going to bed smelling like mud rather than soap is one my most vivid childhood memories.
2) Bath time winds my kids up All the baby books said a bedtime bath routine would help soothe my babies and send them peacefully off to dreamland. My reality was that Isaac loved baths so much that he screamed and threw tantrums when they were over. And Gillian hated baths so much she screamed and threw tantrums when I'd try to wash her. It was easier to send the kids to bed unwashed.
3) I'm lazy It's true. The only thing I hate more than vacuuming my house is cleaning my bathroom, which is always a mess after bathing Isaac and Gillian. A quick rinse under a garden hose or a relatively clean puddle is good enough for me. Besides, I want all the hot water for my own relaxing bath.