Kids are filthy.
From a sweet baby’s very first up-to-his-earlobes explosive poop to a darling daughter’s bloody bathroom waste basket to a teen son’s crunchy socks next to his bed (let’s do this together, shall we: ewwww), our kids are an abundance of nasty from the get-go. The intensity of it simply grows as their size does.
Most parents usually evolve through these stages of mess and mayhem. I can’t speak for everyone but I know I am not alone in my transformation, having begun as the OCD Organizer of Playsets After Bedtime (because Luke Skywalker, you do NOT belong with the Riddler) to where I am presently: throwing up my hands in defeat and closing doors to the war zones I don’t want to see.
Oftentimes offspring go through transformations, too. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it happens but there’s an undetected moment in their lives when kids go from not bathing at all to taking forty minute showers. It may seem unexpected but at least for boys, it actually follows the natural progression of your hand lotion disappearing (again, in unison: ewwww).
I remember meeting someone for the first time and our cordial chatter revealed the ages of our children. I think at the time my oldest might’ve been thirteen but his were a bit older. At one point this dad rolled his eyes dramatically and quipped about paint peeling off the bathroom walls. I smiled politely and moved on because I had no idea what he was he was talking about. Before long, I did.
Ohhhh, now I get it …. THE STEAM. I’ve since had to repaint my bathroom.
I think we can all agree that every parent believes she has the world’s worst kid-and-hygiene story (I’ll take Toenail Clippings in the Kitchen for $500, Alex!). Arguably the most reviled aspect of parenting, it is a bona fide bummer. Every parent can relate to the appalling conditions of kids’ bathrooms because there’s really nothing like it. For years I commuted using NYC subways and those smelled better. If I’m being honest the sheer concept of a kids bathroom is not something I was privy to until a few years ago. I may be living like a filthy American these days (looking at you, separate potty room) but I actually grew up sharing a bathroom with four other people and raised my own family of six sharing one, too, for quite some time. Personal sinks are sweet luxuries indeed — until it dawns on you you’re the only one cleaning them. I may be fortunate enough now to have my own (ahem, master) bathroom but sadly it didn’t come with a moat — so keeping out the unwanted is an everyday struggle. Now that I’ve seen how the other half lives, I don’t want to share. I’ve never been a fan of the family bed and I am now even less enamored of a family bathroom. So yeah. Get the fkkk out, spawn, and take your hash-marked boxer briefs and clumps of drain-clogging hair with you (and while I’m at it, feel free to grab your dad on the way out). There aren’t enough adjectives for gross. At what age does a sanitary bathroom become important and why are there so many unanswered questions about it? How does so much toothpaste even get on mirrors? If not on the mirror, why must it remain in a goop in the sink until it becomes cement? Are the fifteen empty shampoo bottle for a science project? Do you really not see the pee hitting the floors/walls/heater ??? Gaack.
We love the stuffing outta them but our kids are disgusting.
Curdled baby vomit on our clothes (and the smell never comes out).
Poop, poop and more poop (and, in the case of boys, continuing FOREVER).
Bloodied knees, broken bones, cracked teeth, and the apex: pencil point lodged in a facial cheek for infinity.
September backpacks containing June lunches.
Service for six place settings under beds.
Yogurt spoons under couch cushions.
Insert your favorite find here: _______________________________________________
I’ve no doubt a friend could top you.
Childhood is dirty and grimy but we all signed up for that. Thanks to What to Expect When You’re Expecting (how in the world did our mothers ever do without it?) we all knew what we were getting into. What we didn’t see coming (because we expertly drowned out our own mothers) was the speed and monotony in which filth flies at us beyond diaper duty.
The good news is, there’s relief if you want it. You just have to want it bad enough and change your behavior – not theirs. We have to essentially, well, give up. Raise that white flag and sing that annoying song from Frozen. When I finally realized Barbies and Bratz dolls were living harmoniously despite which bin I strategically placed them in each evening, I gave that up. When I saw that every other ‘tween on the planet was wearing a similar stained hoodie at the bus stop every day in lieu of a winter coat, I gave that up, too. Eventually I also stopped stripping beds and taught my kids how to change their own linens. My kids spend ridiculous amounts of time cleaning their bodies – only to put on dirty clothes and sleep in smelly sheets and I am the only one bothered by this? Really? Who’s the crazy one here?
I totally get why it’s a struggle for some moms to give up. The older our babies get, the less they need us. Throw in a cell phone and kids can communicate within 160 characters and go a few days at a time without a complete sentence grunted in our direction. Letting go of the actions that keep us maternally connected is extremely hard. It’s in our DNA: we need to be needed and it’s sad to watch that slip away. What we don’t need is the constant thanklessness that comes with say, doing laundry: When that epiphany hits it’s like a Costco-sized tub of Tide falling on your foot.
Good grief, how many times was I going to throw a basket of clothes into a washing machine before realizing they were still neatly folded from the last time I’d cleaned them? Cue the veins bulging. I was doing daily laundry for five able-bodied beings who were keeping my grocery tab at triple digits each week. It’s no wonder I was perpetually irritable most of the time. I’m not sure what it took to hammer that last nail into my Whirlpool coffin but one day I just stopped. I was younger than junior high when I’d started doing my own laundry (you were, too) and here I was enabling my adolescents far beyond that. I was suddenly embarrassed by it. So I walked away from doing their laundry with nary a threat or a door slam and never looked back. What’s that sound, you ask? Freedom bells ringing.
That was definitely one of my Great Mom Moments to date but I haven’t reached Grand Master Level just yet. To be clear, there’s still a tsunami of mess in my home at any given time if I don’t keep up with the nagging but I’ve grown wiser as well as weary. I now dangle car keys until rooms are picked up and I’ve been known to make bacon and refuse to slide it over until trash cans are brought in, dogs are walked and the mystery smell is unearthed in the mudroom. When things are gettin’ done I guess the strategy doesn’t matter.
And their bathroom? Please. I still rarely go in there. Some days I just can’t do it. But they’re learning: now I won’t let their boy/girlfriends come over until they clean it. Ahhh, the enchanting effect of the adolescent significant other. I do believe I’ve come up with another chapter. Stay tuned!
* * * *
Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and recently was featured in Huff Post. She appeared in the Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements. (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook & @Eyerollingmom on Instagram. Her collection of essays, A Momoir, can be found here