Let’s face it; kids are gross. They’re grimy, snotty, crusty, crummy, and all modes of stinky. My infant son operates a cheese factory in his neck folds, and my nose often knows when my two-year-old son enters the room. If they weren’t absolutely charming otherwise, we’d be a troubled family.
It hasn’t always been this way. I, too, used to think of children as perfectly pure, sweet-smelling joy manufacturers. I wanted to be a young mother to many, many children. We’d frolic around barefoot in a field full of shin-tickling wildflowers, bouncing rainbows off one another’s hearts.
That romantic image was dissolved long before I had children of my own. I was lying on the floor holding my super smiley three-month-old nephew up in the air at arm’s length when he slobbered directly into my mouth. Shock. Disgust. Trauma. The mysophobe in me immediately imagined a swarm of germs swimming laps in the long strand of thick spittle as it descended through a throng of airborne microbes. I was infected — if not with whatever bugs little dude was harboring, then with the desire to never hold another child ever again.
From then on I couldn’t help but think of babies as booger dispensaries and kids as cootie contractors. I cringed at the word child, shuddered when my sisters kissed my nieces’ and nephews’ cruddy cheeks.
As I re-evaluated what it means to be a parent, I made a list of things I would never, ever do once I became a mom. Now that I am two years into my job as a parent, I’ve crossed every item off the list. Here’s a sampling of the ones I thought would surely never go.
Share a spoon
Soon after the slobber incident, I came across a mother feeding her infant in a restaurant. After each bite the baby took, she licked the spoon clean before scooping out another bite. I was disgusted and, for the moment, vowed to never have children. Fast forward ten years and call me guilty. I’d rather ingest a little baby drool than insert a dirty spoon into a bowl or jar.
Pick another person’s nose
My mom has great fingernails. They’re long and thick and, as I once observed, perfect for swiping boogers from the noses of a sniffling baby. After watching her extract a hard lump of snot from my nephew’s nose, I swore I’d always use a tissue when tending to my sons. I soon learned, however, that tissues aren’t always on hand.
Walk around with puke on my shirt
Of all the things that come out of the mouths of babes, spit-up is the grossest of the gross. It starts out as chunky slime and ends as a rancid crust. I used to change my shirt every time my older son spit up on me. I soon found myself wearing as many as five different shirts in one day. Now, instead of doing laundry every day, I often accrue a variety of “puke brooches” before I even have the time to think about freshening up.
Discuss, in detail, another person’s poop
I once heard my sister ask her husband to describe the contents of my niece’s diaper. I spent the next several years questioning her sanity. Now that I’m a parent, poop is discussed frequently and unabashedly in my home. It’s not easy to keep the conversation private either. Just the other day, my husband and I were standing over the toilet accusing each other of giving our two-year-old too many blueberries, when a weekend visitor poked his head into the bathroom and said, “Oops.” For a brief moment, I considered asking him to look at the blue mess. But we’re hoping he’ll have kids soon, so I kept my mouth — and the toilet — shut.