Can someone explain to me the aversion children have for cleanliness? It seems that my children are not just oblivious to dirt, but actually actively dislike the concept of cleaning, be it themselves, spaces, or inanimate objects.
When I was a child, I don’t recall being particularly violently opposed
to the habits of personal hygiene. I didn’t squawk about baths, and my parents
didn’t have to threaten me with dire consequences to get me to brush my teeth.
Or, you know, shit, maybe they did and I just don’t remember it. I do remember
my father monitoring my tooth brushing a few times, but in my mind it was more
of a tutorial than strong arming me into doing it.
My children, however, actively protest any behavior that
relates to keeping them even moderately sanitary. If they had it their way,
they would stink, be filthy, and have rotting cadaver breath. They would wear
the same clothes for days on end, and in their bedrooms it would appear as
though we had chosen a product called “sweat pants and cartoon character shirts”
as a floor covering.
Two of them will willingly take a bath as long as I a) let
them in the tub together, b) let them use my “big” (soaking) bathtub and c)
provide them with 7-10 gallons of foaming soap each to spray on each other and
themselves (my daughter spends the entire time in the tub insisting, "I'm ELSA" and making Olaf out of the foam. Oh Frozen, will you never release your grip?). The other two I practically have to physically drag into the shower
and hold there until the water washes away the fumes and my eyes stop tearing.
Of course these are the two who are the most fragrant if they don’t bathe for a
Part of the reason they get so ripe is because they have
favorite clothes that they’re loathe to remove from their person. Like ever.
The oldest has been known to sleep in his clothes (changing into pajamas is so exhausting,
y’all). My daughter regularly changes her favorite shirt (by which I mean she
reevaluates her options and picks a new one, not that she removes the old one
and puts on a new one. God forbid) and will wear the new favorite for as many
days as I will let her. The problem is knowing what shirt she has on. She wears
a sweatshirt almost constantly, with a t-shirt under it. It’s the t-shirt she
won’t change. Sometimes I just have to guess: “You’re wearing the same shirt
you had on yesterday, aren’t you? Go change it.” Her slightly defiant look, and
hundred and eighty degree turn to stomp back upstairs are generally the only
indication that I was right.
Getting them to change their underwear is a special
struggle. Sometimes I have to stand there and watch them remove the old ones
and pull on the new ones. Based on their expressions and the huffing and
sighing that goes on during the process, I can only assume that changing their
underwear is only slightly less physically and emotionally traumatic than
pulling off their eyelids and putting on new ones.
Tooth brushing is another despised activity in my household.
I suppose when I was a kid I didn’t feel like I had hideous breath when I woke
up. Little did I know I was probably dead wrong, or I was if my own children
are any indication. They will go to the most phenomenal lengths to not brush their teeth. I’ll send them
back two or three times to do it, and each time they’ll lie and say they have,
and I’ll check their teeth and, hey kids, the
same brown shit that was on your teeth five minutes ago is still on your teeth,
you did not fucking brush your teeth.
And then I have to send them back to brush them again and it would be so much simpler and less of a waste of time
for ALL of us if they’d just fucking brush their teeth the first time I sent them do to it. And they’re just fucking
around—it’s not that they don’t like the toothpaste or don’t know how to do it.
For whatever reason, they just don’t want to use a bristled implement and a
flavored paste or gel to scrub the foulness off of their various oral
protrusions so they don’t have breath that smells like rotten meat rolled in
And their fingernails. One of them regularly comes home from
school looking as though the extracurricular activity for the day was
harvesting potatoes. The kid has so much soil under his fingernails, that’s the
only conclusion I can draw. And when I insist on scrubbing it out, you’d think I
was torturing him the way he carries on. It’s ten times worse if I actually
insist on trimming his nails at the
same time. You remember that scene in “Gone With The Wind,” when Scarlett is
standing in the doorway when the doctor has to amputate the guy’s leg and there’s
no anesthesia? That guy could take lessons on expressing excruciating pain from my
kid having his nails trimmed.
I’m wondering how long it will be before I can look at them and
not know the exact contents of their most recent meal or snack. Anything
chocolate or tomato-based is particularly inclined to give them away. I’m
having a hard time convincing them that it’s
ok to wipe your face with a paper napkin. They are not a priceless
commodity, nor treasured heirlooms that need to be preserved. Just use the
As a reformed slob (and not always a successfully reformed
one) I’m willing to give them a pass on their rooms, up to a point. They have to put all dirty clothes in the laundry room once a week, change their sheets, and pick up all the stuff on the floor, but I don't give them too much grief about the condition of their rooms generally. The only thing I did insist on was that when we got the dog I told
them if they wanted the dog to be allowed upstairs, they would have to keep
their rooms immaculate, because he would chew and/or eat anything that was on
the floor. In a decision that proves they carry more than a fragment of my
genetic material, they decided that was way
too big a pain in the ass, and the dog just wouldn’t be allowed above the main
level of the house. Which is fine with me because there’s no dog hair up there,
and as it is on the main level, I sweep up enough hair every other day to make
another dog. I can’t understand why this creature isn’t bald by now.
I suppose one day they’ll discover the opposite sex, and
then I’ll be sorry I wanted them so clean. They’ll lock themselves in the
bathroom and take half hour long showers and I’ll have to listen to the fights
about who’s been in the bathroom for how long and that they need to get out. I understand from friends with older kids that the boys will end up smelling like the entire Axe display.
But I will say I won’t miss the constant struggle to get them to brush their
teeth and change their underwear. The fact that these episodes always seem to
happen in the morning is most unfortunate, because they are one of the main reasons that I drink. I think if I started drinking at
7:30 a.m., the neighbors would talk. More than they do now, I mean.