There is a lot about motherhood that is beautiful and miraculous. Watching my son become the amazing young man he is growing up to be, for example is one. My little girl, a gift I waited to have for over ten years is another. I am deliciously happy and my heart is full with joy. And then there are also the moments when I am constantly reminded that kids are disgusting. The remarkable thing about the horrifying grossness of children is that no matter how much you might know this to be true in your own mind and logic, you still can not seem to turn off the need to validate the gross by utilizing your own senses.
I have no idea why this happens or what evolutionary advantage this could possibly give those of us who raise our young. For some reason, countless mothers will smell their children’s bums even after watching their children poop in their diapers. It makes no sense. I will find a lost bottle with milk that has become a solid, and what will I do? Sniff it while I dump out the curdled cheese as if I need to really make sure I didn’t fill my daughter’s bottle with sour cream.
Of course, I am only talking about the gross things babies and toddlers do that we have to certify as gross. There is the fascination they have with picking their noses and realizing they can eat the stuff they pull out. And sharing popsicles with the dog. And at the same time, as a mother, I will see this happening, and it will register in my head as certifiable repulsive, but I will still have to touch whatever she just smeared on herself, smell whatever was found, taste whatever she made for me, and clean up the pukepeepoop in the middle of the night.
My son will be 14 years old in December and I’m proud of him. It isn’t pride that makes me smell his dirty laundry when I put in the washing machine, though. Is this a Mother Bear thing? Do I still have a grudge over the clean laundry I would wash when he was little and would hide in his hamper so he wouldn’t have to put it away? All I know is that each and every time I put a t-shirt up to my nose and nearly die, I think I am the Lois Lane of the parenting world — idiotically assuming that just because I smell it with glasses on it will smell differently.
From the moment these precious children were placed in my arms and I thought all the weird yucky things about pregnancy were over, I thought that I would do anything for them. And I would. It is obviously natural in the most bizarre way possible to think of beautiful things when cleaning vomit off the ceiling. I had no idea how far vomit could go until I became a mother and to this day I believe this is a weapons technology our government has yet to utilize effectively.
I don’t know if I will ever understand why children must be so disgusting but I do know that as long as they are, mothers will smell poopy diapers and rotten milk, they will get down low to really touch sheets to see if they’ve peed on and they will use those syringes to suck snot out of little noses. Mothers will wait forever for their kids to go potty only to be peed on as soon as they walk out of the bathrooms and unknowingly have spit up in their hair. Mothers will eat the leftovers off of their children’s plates so the food won’t go to waste, even if the food is cold and pretty nasty.
And for some reason, I will still take a sniff of my son’s dirty t-shirts, so help me. I will still breathe deeply when I walk into his bedroom and cough from the smell. And I will still smell the milk that has soured on my little girls book covers because she likes to “paint” with it then forget about it. I’ll retch a little bit each time she tries to eat almonds and then have to spit them out in my hand. No where else, just my hand.
They will grow up, my sweethearts. Someday they will leave home. If I’m lucky, someday I won’t have to smell poopy diapers or soured milk or inhale dirty laundry. But right now I have my disgusting little kids, and I’m grateful for them. As nasty as it is sometimes, I’m grateful the sixth sense is the sense of mothering.