I was surprised to receive an apology from a member of staff at my son's nursery a couple of weeks ago. Surprised because it was for something that I think is a normal part of childhood. The adults and children had been out in the gardens puddle-jumping and 'looking for worms' which meant that I would need to put a set of the little man's clothes in the wash when I got home.
Checking that I hadn't mistakenly turned up at a Swiss finishing school, I told them that this was no problem at all. My son is a child and, like all children, he loves getting messy. Our washing machine is always on - my laundry basket literally runneth over - so this was no great shakes for me, but some parents had said they were not happy for their children's clothes to get dirty. Hence the apology.
I find this strange because being messy goes hand in hand with learning and growing. Some of the best photos we have of our children are of their first attempts to feed themselves; covered from nose to wrist in vividly coloured puree, and beaming with pride at having (sort of) got the weaning spoon into their mouth. The pictures that we treasure are those first hand and foot prints created by chubby little palms and soles smeared with brightly coloured paint. The major event that is baby's 'first trip to the seaside' stays with you for at least a week as bits of sand continue to turn up in their hair / ears / nappy.
Then yesterday we were sorting through the children's clothes and my son put his 3 'proper' shirts on the 'too small' pile (they're not) and shouted "I don't like being smart!!". Much as I would love to see him just ocassionally looking like a little Ralph Lauren model (in the vain hope that I might by association appear effortlessly chic and groomed) I thought he did have a point. He is happiest when comfortable, outside and preferably muddy. And I love him that way.