Wallowing in Their Own Filth

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 day.

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 poo.

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 damned napkin.

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.


Unknown said...

Love: 7-10 gallons of foaming soap AND the gym class potato harvesting. Too funny. But I feel the same way. What I don't get is how other moms never EVER mention any of these things like it doesn't happen in their house?!?!?!?! WTH? Kids are infuriating. I don't want to over burden you but I have had some similar thoughts on the mater.
Also: http://ironicmom.com/2013/12/11/trying-to-help/
And also:

I don't usually include links in comments, but I thought you'd appreciate these.

Tracy said...

Seriously! And I chaperoned on a 3rd grade field trip a couple of months ago in a capacity in which I had the opportunity to see the hands of every single 3rd grader at my kids' school, and I can assure you EVERY KID had some version of an Idaho manicure!

Links are fine--always nice to know others are in the same (dirty) boat! :)