About That Kid in the Dirty Shirt…


As an education major in college, I came in contact with children in numerous arenas. One of my college jobs was at a daycare that mostly served people with a limited income. When parents dropped their kids off with dirty shirts and faces, I would look at those children and make a few assumptions. One was that their parents were too poor to afford extra changes of clothes when their kid’s clothes got dirty. Another was that the parents didn’t care enough about their kid to take the time to wipe their face or change their shirt.

Of course now, as a parent myself, I have a different perspective. To illustrate, I will give you a glimpse of breakfast in my house.

The house is a loud, anxiety-filled tornado until the older two leave to get on the bus and Daddy leaves for work. Then things calm a little. I make my coffee (I’m not a morning person) and try to figure out what Kyle and his brother will find acceptable to eat that morning. On one particular morning, I chose to heat up French toast I’d made the day before.

Kyle’s French toast was made with gluten-free bread. He seemed interested but after a sniff or two, tossed it across the table. It landed on the ground. I asked him to get down and pick it up and said I would make him some instant oatmeal. He obliged. I made the oatmeal, and while it cooked I tried putting his baby brother, “Mr. S.,” in his high chair, but he screamed and struggled so I let him roam free.

When the oatmeal was ready I served it to Kyle and managed to get Mr. S. in his high chair to eat some cut-up French toast. He settled quickly. Kyle slowly pushed the oatmeal away, and I was oh-so-grateful that he chose not to dump it on the floor (big strides!). Thus food choice #2 was a bust. I sat down and ate my French toast and Kyle’s oatmeal while he sat food-less. I felt satisfied that I didn’t have to wipe up any spilled milk or oatmeal that morning but dejected that I still hadn’t found something Kyle would eat.

I noticed a box of cereal bars on the table so I offered one to Kyle. Here was the result:

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These are the reasons why I often send my kid to school with a dirty face, shirt and pants — breakfast takes so much of my energy just to get my kid to eat, I’m often too physically and emotionally exhausted to go upstairs and get him a new shirt. If his pants are dirty, it would require removing his shoes to change them, so I don’t. If his face is dirty, I probably did my best to wipe it, but sometimes it’s not worth the struggle. If I changed his shirt when it got messy, he would go through three or four shirts every day. And I really don’t have the energy to do laundry that often.

So the kid with the dirty shirt? That’s my kid. I love him immensely, and I can afford to buy him lots of shirts. But you have to pick your battles.

This post originally appeared on for elysium

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