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My clan eats dirt. We play with our chicken, with our bare hands. We run around barefooted all summer. We eat things that fall on the floor. We dig creatures out of the ground to play with and chase our siblings with. We rarely mop.

And we get sick. Not killer sick, just colds and sniffles and coughs. And not terribly often. Now, lots of people like to voice their concerns to me that my kiddos get sick because we let them play with compost and clean out the chicken coop. We prefer to think of it as excersizing their immune systems. Maybe they will be healthier adults. It sure worked for my generation.

As a kid, I remember asthma as the exception, not the rule. I didn't know anyone with a nebulizer in their home. And hardly anyone was on an antibiotic. In the 70's, you were expected to toss your shoes into a corner of your room on the last day of school, and there they stayed for 3 glorious months. It was a competition to see who could walk across the gravel earliest in the summer. We mucked around in murky ponds and then ate egg salad sandwiches on the banks without washing our hands. We played outside all.day.long. I don't mean an hour or two; I mean from sun up until the street lights came on at 8:30, stopping only briefly enough to run in for dinner. We chased lightning bugs in our yard and sometimes smashed the glow on our cheeks. We shared things with our friends: clothes, toys, soda, abc gum.

And when we invariably got sick, we drank orange juice and had a sick tray on our bed. My sick tray always had the same comforting items: Campbell's chicken noodle soup, orange juice and saltine crackers, not a medicine dropper or antibiotic as far as the eye could see. And you certainly didn't go to the doctor. The doctor's office was reserved for extraction of beans stuck up your nose, certainly not for something so mundane as being sick.

It was also the only time in your life you had a television in your room! My dad would struggle that behemoth in and plug it in on top of my dresser. Now, don't get too excited, this was the 70's, cartoons were only shown on Saturday mornings. So, you watched Bob Ross paint happy trees and drifted back to sleep. And you got better.

So, next time you see your kid pulling stuff out of the trash to make a robot, let her. If you're lucky, she'll get sick.

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Tags: antibiotics, dirt, sick

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Comment by Ron Swaisgood on February 6, 2010 at 11:48pm
Great post, Ashley! And it rings so true. I felt waves of nostalgia as I read your post, thinking back to my own childhood of good ol' fashioned dirt-eating! And our house was the last one on the block to get a color TV. My dad built it himself. So, without the allure of 300 channels in color, it was an easy decision to just stay out all day. Just get home before dark...or at least an hour after dark.
Comment by Ashley Wainwright Donahue on January 29, 2010 at 11:02pm
I love that idea! Thanks for reading!
Comment by Suz Lipman on January 29, 2010 at 6:26pm
I love this post! It says so much about extreme germophobia and attempts to protect kids that end up doing more harm than good to bodies and spirits. I'm with you -- calm down and let them play. We'd probably all be better off. P.S. I think we all need "We eat dirt" T-shirts.

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