I grimaced as Noah used his sleeve to wipe the tomato sauce off of his chin for the third time. “Yummm, I love pisgetti mummy! It’s my favourite you know.”
“It’s tasty, isn’t it?” I replied smiling, “try to use the cloth rather than your sleeve to clean your face though bud OK?”
I’m a messy mum. I associate mud and mess, the explosion of craft supplies across the living room and batter spattered all over the kitchen as signs of a good day of play. I don’t like the idea of Noah worrying about spilling things, or crying because he gets paint on his jumper, or indeed spaghetti sauce on his Buzz Lightyear top.
I’ve never questioned this messy approach to our days until recently when I found myself trying to cram clothes that didn’t fit into Noah’s chest of drawers. It dawned on me that I hadn’t gone through his clothes to filter out the ones that didn’t fit for a while and that to save my knuckles and having drawers full of creased clothes I’d better find half an hour to do this. Later that day I emptied the drawers completely and began checking the sizes for items that were too small. If none of my friends or village community need the stuff that no longer fits Noah I usually take it to Babes in the Wood, a not for profit social enterprise in Stirling that sells second hand children’s clothes, toys and ‘equipment’. Sometimes if I’m being a bit lazy, or if I’m in a hurry to free up space I’ll use one of the clothing banks in the village or the Sainsburys car park.
Whilst going through the clothes I pulled our five or six items that felt too stained to pass onto someone else and put them in a separate pile. I should be able to find somewhere that will take this kind of thing to shred and turn into removal blankets or the like, I thought. But as I looked at the items I began to feel a bit wasteful. Each little t-shirt had probably been worn a dozen or so times. Was my easy going attitude towards mess shortening the life span of clothes that could be worn 100 times with a little more care? I’ve always tried to get Noah involved in reuse and recycling and I’ve even enlisted his help in taking photographs for this project to encourage him to think about waste and how to minimise it.
But was I inadvertently teaching him to be wasteful in another way? Or was I allowing him to be a four-year-old? I thought of the interview I did last year with Catherine from the Berwickshire Swap where we chatted at length about the quick turn around you have with children’s clothing and the joy at finding second hand bargains instead of buying everything new off the shelf. I thought about the school uniform bank in Stirling and the conversation I had with Kate who donates her time and love to providing quality second hand school uniforms to the community, diverting the white shirts with yellow underarms to the same fate as Noah’s t-shirts. I though about my own wardrobe and the ten dresses I have hanging in there that will be worn less times than Noah’s stained t-shirts. I then thought about my chat with Naomi Ross, co-founder of Sioda, a clothing rental business and decided that there were probably many ways I could minimise my clothes waste without removing messy play from our lives. But that perhaps on pisgetti days I could remember to pull out an already stained top for mealtimes. I finally thought about the little bundle of second hand clothes I had been collecting for a good friend of mine whose first baby is due in a few months. I’d been wondering about gifting someone second hand clothes and pondering if my friend would appreciate the non-new nature of the gift or perhaps rather something from M&S. I tucked the bundle into an almost new gift bag and set my mind to posting it later in the week.