Jayne Dawson: Let them all eat dirt – a mucky kid is a healthy kid

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I’m not expecting sympathy, but it’s tough on the front line of grandparenting.

Yes, I know, you can hand them back, and all that. But what about while you have them? That bit between welcoming them at the door and waving them an exhausted goodbye? It’s a minefield. One wrong move and, boom, the parents can blow.

You never know when you might step on a rule change. They lurk in unexpected places.

Just when you think you are on safe territory the air all around will turn to ice and then fall down in killer shards at your feet. You will step away from the child and then turn slowly and timidly to find cold parental eyes and fixed parental smiles - and know that you have put your foot in it again.

When they’re little the rules are at least clear-cut: ever changing but clear-cut. Sleeping babies have been turning in their cots like little spinning tops over the decades. Sometimes they are on their front, sometimes their back. It depends of the current safety advice. The parents will have a view, and you will stick to it. That’s an easy one.

Likewise with solids. You will have been told at what month the first teaspoons of the first foods can be introduced and, unless you have a death wish, you will not break the rules.

But once the toddler times begin, there are shades of grey. It’s scary. You will believe you are doing the right thing in maintaining the ban on juice of all kinds, but then you will discover - too late - that bedtime milk has been banned by the dentist too. This will be one of the times you will hope you beloved grandchild’s vocabulary is not expanding rapidly - at least not rapidly enough to reveal the naughty cups of milk they have been enjoying.

So, no, I don’t expect you to sympathise but I think a little understanding is called for when I tell you that I am on my knees with gratefulness that grubby kids are back in fashion. At last! Something I got right! Something I can do so well!

It’s because of allergies - a word I swear I had never heard until I was 30 years old. Allergies didn’t exist in working class Leeds in the 1960s and ‘70s. There might have been a few “weird” people, I’ll grant you that. But we didn’t allow them allergies.

The junior school playground was full of kids with shaved heads dyed purple with gentian violets to kill the nits. We didn’t bat an eyelid. But no one had anything as soft as an allergy.

But then came an allergy explosion so massive that the sneezes could be heard across the globe - and it isn’t just hayfever, which has increased three-fold since those innocent times. All kinds on real allergies have increased massively, not just the kind which really mean the victim is on a diet.

We now have one of the highest levels of allergy sufferers in the world, and hospital admissions have increased 500 per cent. It’s a bit bewildering.

Theories come and go, but every so often someone declares that we have become too clean for our own good - and now is one of those times.

Parents are currently being advised to let their children play in the dirt, to let them pat a dog, to let them roll around and get grubby.

And I can do this. I have previous experience. I was that mother who gave her offspring a spoon and told them to go dig in the dirt, I was that parent who picked up the dummy and licked it clean.

I don’t know if they actually ate worms but I wouldn’t have been that worried if they had - tough on the worms though, obviously.

I did this because I remembered the fun of playing in the dirt myself. Played in it and, to be honest, lived in it. There was always a panicky clean-up before visitors arrived in our house. I reckon my immune system must be top notch.

So right now I’m jubilant. I am comfortable with dirt, and dirt is good. Life as a grandma just got even better.

Chaps, let the beards go now

There was a time when men with beards were derided. I think it is time to go back there.

Most women have always hated men’s facial hair almost as much as they hate their own.

But then came The Beard Years when every fashionable man with facial follicles let nature take its course.

It became obligatory. Instead of being a disguise for a chin that didn’t bear public scrutiny, beards began to furnish the face of even the most chiselled of jawlines.

Some went for a light covering of facial pelt, others - commonly known as hipsters - let their manly manes run riot across their features.

The fact that we now say the word “hipster” with a slight sneer tells us that peak beard has been and gone.

Someone need to tell this to the organisers of the British Beard and Moustache Championships recently held in Liverpool.

This is an event organised annually by the British Beard Club and the British Handlebar Club - imagine there being such organisations.

Even the names of the categories make me feel a bit nauseous. Moustaches have a category called English Slender which sounds like it should be growing in a garden, while beards include sideburns and chops, which sounds like someone’s tea got stuck there.Time for a bit of smooth jawline, I say.

Thanks for quitting, Will

Even the biggest television programmes need a boost to keep them interesting, and it turns out that Will Young provided that very thing when he walked off Strictly.

At first it seemed a blow: Will Young, big name, likeable chap, competent dancer.

But after five minutes, it didn’t. Instead of depleting the BBC’s biggest show, Will has added a layer of intrigue.

We all know that, great as Strictly is, the formula is now stretched as thin as filo pastry.

I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s good to have a little something bubbling in the background.

So those stories which continue to rumble on about Why Will Did It are all a bonus.

Is he ill, or is he a diva? Did he fall out with judge Len, or partner Karen?

The rumours will carry on as long as the series. Which all adds to the annual fun.