Not surprisingly, she
occasionally not infrequently pretty well daily goes home in a different outfit than the one in which she arrived. I might point out that my standards are a little reasonably extremely relaxed. I don’t change a child just because there are grass stains on their knees, or a dollop of lunch on their shirt. Dirt’s not dangerous, and there’s only going to be more before we’re done. If they spill water down their fronts on a hot summer’s day, I might dab at them with a towel, but I leave the clothes on the kid. It’s just water. It’s a hot day. They’ll dry. Heck, I’ll do that with juice, too. As long as the child is warm and comfortable, I don’t worry much about mess.
(On one occasion some years back, I bathed a couple of particularly grubby children one afternoon. At the end of the day, the mother of one said to the mother of the other, through a river of her delightful laughter, “And if Mary bathed them, you KNOW it had to be bad!!” She wasn’t sneering, and I wasn’t insulted. It’s only the truth.)
But this one, she goes well beyond grubbiness and into filth. When she really extends herself, she manages Assaults Against Hygiene. A virtuoso of grime, this sweetie.
All this is fine. Kids get messy when they play, I’m prepared for this. I have bins for each child, and the parents provide an extra outfit or two for spills, leaks, mud, paint and mystery smears. When an outfit is soiled, it goes home that evening and is replaced the next day.
However, some parents are a little less reliable about this than others. Anyone can forget once in a while, of course, which is why I also have a small stash of spare outfits. However, some parents have been known to go several days without returning a clean outfit. Which means that the offspring of these particular parents sometimes ends up going through my spare outfits — because we all know Grubnik’s not going to wait until there’s a fresh outfit to grime themselves up again. And sometimes, when it’s been days and days since the original outfit went home, when my extra outfits have been consumed, some parents’ children even end up going home with other children’s spare clothes… (and yes, I make sure they know these are now SOME OTHER CHILD’S clothing) …
and those don’t come back in a timely fashion, either.
Okay. Now it’s a problem.
(There was that time a few years back, when the family of a particularly grime-prone little boy was this kind of disorganized. I had asked, and reminded, and sent notes home, had even phoned them at home … and still no clean clothes or return of the FOUR outfits they were hoarding. I didn’t care if they’d been washed. I just wanted them back! Eesh. And on the umpteenth day of this, Junior needed another outfit. I rummaged through the bins, and I found one.
Pink tights, purple shirt with ruffles and sequins, red tutu … and My Little Pony underwear.
They returned the clothes — all FIVE outfits (and all still dirty) — the next day. Thankyouverymuch.)
It’s not a new problem, and it happens often enough over the years that when I discover I’m dealing with one of THOSE families, my response is practical and practiced.
“Another day, another outfit!” Mom chortles as her daughter trots toward her in her spare outfit. I laugh. It’s true. This child canNOT keep one outfit clean — even to my admittedly relaxed standards. Mom looks around. “Where’s the bag?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I was doing a load anyway, and just tossed it in with my family’s laundry. No problem.”
“Oh, that’s so nice! Thank you.”
Nice? Nothing like it. Total self-preservation. The tiny additional work of a wee pair of pants and socks is nothing balanced against aggravation of chasing them for days on end to return a clean outfit.
“You’re welcome. It’s no inconvenience, really.” (Subtext: FAR less than you’ll inconvenience me if I sent that outfit home with you…)
“Well, it’s very thoughtful of you, anyway.” And off they go.
Now that’s a win-win outcome: I’m spared a heap of aggravation, the child will have a clean spare outfit the next day and I get consideration brownie points for what is really nothing but sheerest self-interest.