Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Big Boys Eat Dirt

The kids were old enough to play in the yard; not quite by themselves but not totally supervised either. I was working outside and placed them in the sand box while I went about my chores. Periodically checking to make sure they didn’t get out of the fenced in area and sending a few encouraging “big boy!” words their way. I came back to find one of them shoving a hand full of dirt into their mouth and then looking up to smile at me with his huge blue eyes, sand on his cheeks, a brown/black tongue and brown/black drool all down the front of his shirt. After barely suppressing a laugh I did the obligatory “eww... big boys don’t eat dirt!” and helped him wash it out with the garden hose. After many such eating experiences, some even grosser, we have a healthy, well-adjusted 20-something to be proud of.

I have since come to believe that I was wrong. Big boys DO eat dirt; that is IF they want to grow up as healthy big boys. Today’s parents spend WAY TOO MUCH time protecting their kids from every germ, bug and clump of dirt. A study on over 11,000 kids, done by Discover Magazine, found that “an overly hygienic environment” dramatically increases the risk of eczema and asthma later in life.

This is the very idea behind childhood immunizations. You introduce a small bit of the disease into the child’s system so that the antibodies are built up for if/when the BIG attack comes. Immunization is the practice before the big game. Exposure to germs and bacteria is common and needed. You have over 1000 species of bacteria that occur naturally in/on your body.

This overprotection from every bug and germ is also call “first child syndrome” because usually you go crazy protecting that first child from every possible event that you just read about in the 100 raising-your-child-right books you just ingested. By the time the second child comes around you sit way back and relax for the ride. By the third and fourth child you forget their names and let them eat whatever they want as long as they are quiet.

Now seriously, you don’t have to go crazy and expose your child to every disease infested mud pool you find, but letting them play in the dirt at the beach and eat a handful or two of sand won’t kill them and might even inoculate them. Big, healthy boys DO eat dirt.

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