When the Little Buddy was a bit smaller, he ate dirt. He ate kind of a lot of dirt. I mentioned it to the pediatrician. He didn't seem overly concerned. Later, it reached unfortunate levels and we began rationing the amount of time he could play outside. Because, see, every time he went out he ran straight to a muddy part of the yard and shoveled in as many fistfuls as he could before I scooped him up. He was tiny. His language was at a minimum. Still, when I asked if he could play outside without eating dirt he said yes even though the answer was a clear no. Then, when I asked him why he was doing it, the answer was a slightly less clear, "Ah dunno!"
He grew out of it.
A few days ago, we discovered an unattractive shade of dirt lipstick smeared around his mouth. His daddy talked to him about not eating dirt. I'm not sure why, but we didn't think much about it.
This afternoon he was playing in the yard. He came in with dirt in the corners of his mouth. Concerned about what is going on in his little life to make him turn to a lifestyle that will, one day, land him on an episode of My Strange Addiction, I decided to get to the bottom of it.
"Show me where you got the dirt," I told him, so calmly that I was actually pretty proud of my parenting skills.
He marched me right over to his old stomping grounds, the part of our yard that we've attempted to grow a garden in but mostly to no avail. We didn't even try this year. "Right there." He pointed to the dark dirt. The dirt that we bought last year when we were hardcore about getting our garden to grow. The dirt that isn't really dirt at all but is, in fact, steer manure. BECAUSE OF COURSE IT IS.
It's alarming how often I use my theatre degree in my every day life. I mean, really. Everyone should have to take extensive acting training before becoming a mother. Because listen! I didn't freak out AT ALL when I realized that my kid had been eating bovine excrement. I mean, I wanted to. I wanted to scream and stick my finger down his throat right then and there but I refrained. And people say dramatic training is worthless. Ha.
"Okay. How much did you eat?"
"That much," he said. "Right there." He pointed to a tiny mound of dark dirt. "That's where I spit it out."
"Wait," I said. HOLD THE PHONE. "Did you swallow any?"
"No," he shook his head.
"You didn't put any in your tummy?"
"No. Only my mouth."
"Why?" I asked. "Why did you put it in your mouth?"
He sighed as though our conversation was boring him to tears. "I was making a castle for the ants."
WHY DON'T THESE LITTLE HUMANS COME WITH A MANUAL? I mean, really. If I could just open up his guidebook and turn to the chapter that explains the correlation between putting feces in the mouth and making castles, I'd be golden.
Instead I just stammered, "What?"
"Mommy! See that! That's a castle FOR THE ANTS. I made them a castle to play in. Like at the beach."
The utter confusion was slowly being replaced by a dawning of enlightenment. "Okay and you put it in your mouth because..." I trailed off. He blinked his big chocolate eyes at me.
"I had to make it wet and sticky to build it right," he explained with a tone that said, Lady, everyone knows that dry sand does not a castle make. The wet stuff is where it's at. Come on! You're from California. YOU SHOULD KNOW.
"Alright," I sighed. I took his little hand and we walked back toward the house. Once inside, I bent down to his level, wiped his lips and told him not to do that anymore. "Matthew, that wasn't dirt you put in your mouth. It was manure."
"What's manure?" he questioned.
"Poop," I said bluntly. He seemed moderately disturbed.
I wish I could make this stuff up. In fact, in this case, I wish I HAD MADE THIS STUFF UP. Unfortunately, it's just another day. Because these boys--they really are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails. And, if it's true that we are what we eat (or, at least, put into our mouths), apparently also steer manure.