I quickly organise my three year old to go and collect her brother and sister from school. She races to the car barefoot and proudly displaying evidence of today’s playgroup activities and lunch over the front of her dress.
As we arrive at school and start walking towards the classrooms, I shelter myself from the rain under the covered path, but my three year old strolls carefree beside the path, in the rain, through the puddles and through the mud. Obviously by the time we get to the classroom she is a right mess; dirty, muddy and soaking.
I look around at the other younger siblings waiting to collect their brothers and sisters; they are in boots and raincoats and fairly neatly dressed. I look again back to my dishevelled three year old who is grinning at me as she squishes mud between her toes. I sigh and think what a failure of a mother I am – my daughter is filthy, running free in the rain and loving it.
The other parents look at me disapprovingly as my daughter heads for another puddle. “Don’t you go in that puddle!” another mother yells as her daughter attempts to join mine in the mud. I can see the anguish on this mothers face at the thought of her child getting dirty and the disappointment on the child’s face at not being able to join the fun in the rain.
In that moment I realise I certainly am not failing as a mother. Although not making it easy for the other parents in that moment, my daughter is doing exactly what she should be – enjoying her childhood, being enriched by the simple joys and experiences in life. After all if you can’t squish mud between your toes when you’re two then when can you?
We all want the best for our children, so let’em get muddy! I could list the many benefits of playing in the rain and mud but it’s easier to just ask - what’s the harm?