“Mum look I got a worm!” My nearly three-year old is standing at the back door covered in questionable brown stains, beaming with pride as he presents his new wriggly friend to me.
His fingernails are black from digging in our yet-to-be-turfed swamp of a backyard and his blonde hair is sporting a half-head of soil lowlights accentuated by some twigs, leaves and mulch.
My 16-month-old who has tipped the dog’s water bowl over his head and consumed several handfuls of dirt closely follows him.
As a former perfectionist with OCD-like hygiene standards, I’ve struggled to embrace the never-ending grubbiness of bringing up two ferociously inquisitive boys. Before I had kids I would recoil at the sight of a grubby child, imagining my future offspring as perfectly coifed catalogue kids sporting white polo shirts, pastel chinos and lump-free foreheads.
Now, as a mum to two adventurous and injury-prone boys, I understand the joy and wonder of a childhood spent outside covered in dirt, bugs and grazes. I’m now happy to let my kids eat slugs (hello paleo diet), roll in dirt and fall off the not-too-high park apparatus. Because not only is it fun, it also develops their social skills and builds their character and resilience.
My boys manage to stay clean for between three and eight minutes in the morning before they fling open the front or back door and launch themselves into the nearest puddle or garden bed. Then Mr Three grabs his helmet and we’re off for a “scoot scoot” with his baby bro and Wilbur the Westie in tow. While there is often a pile of washing and a crumb-covered floor to attend to, I’ve learned to prioritise adventure time over day-to-day chores because when we are out and about my kids are at their happiest and fun-loving best.