If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being the mother of teenage sons, it’s this: be careful what questions you ask.
Of course, any questions to a teen are usually met with frustrating answers, ranging from an irritated explosion of “Mom!” to some sort of hmmph-ing noise from their throat area. But I speak from (hard-earned and sometimes unfortunate) experience when I say that there are some areas of teenage boy life where ignorance is truly bliss. And if you want to remain blissful, Mama, you’re best to steer clear of the following inquiries.
Why so many showers?
When your bath-averse child suddenly seems eager to jump in the shower — daily, even — you’re initially proud that all those parental lectures about personal hygiene have paid off and he’s finally on board with being, you know, acceptably clean. You may be tempted to remark about his new bathing habits, and maybe pose a question about what made everything click into place. But trust me: it isn’t a sudden revelation about stinky armpits that compels him to lock himself in the privacy of the bathroom with increasing frequency. Sure, he may be soaping himself, but he’s also … soaping himself. Know what I mean? The less you ask about it, the better. Just be glad you don’t have to nag him about showering any more, and leave it at that.
Besides, you’ll know it’s not about good hygiene because of the inevitable answer to the following question you probably shouldn’t ask:
When is the last time you brushed your teeth?
If being neat and tidy were truly the concern, your son’s breath wouldn’t smell like the inside of a butthole, because he’d make friends with the toothbrush that’s collecting dust in the holder. But alas, though his skin may be squeaky clean, his teeth are wearing fuzzy yellow coats. You thought that once he was old enough to be self-sufficient, he could be trusted with his own oral hygiene. You were wrong. Don’t ask him outright when he last brushed if you can’t bear to hear that it’s been days or even weeks. Just start suggesting it again, daily.
Where did all the cups/plates/silverware go?
If your teenage son has a bedroom — even if he shares it with a sibling, even if you’ve made a “no eating in the bedroom” rule — I promise, he’s eating in there. And you’ll notice a steady dwindling of your kitchen utensils and dinnerware, and wonder briefly if they’ve gone the way of all the socks the dryer has “eaten” over the years. But you’ll quickly realize that it isn’t a coincidence, and the likely culprit is the one who practically lives on the ramen noodles you swear you’re going to stop buying. You can ask the question, and you can search for the answers yourself — but beware. Entering into a teen boy’s room in search of missing dishes is like entering into a bacterial house of horrors. You’ll find the dishes, all right, with science experiment-worthy amounts of mold or cereal milk congealed into the bottom. You’ll find forks and spoons inexplicably stashed in drawers and wedged between the mattress and the bed frame.
What’s that smell?
Another reason you should think twice about venturing too deeply into a teenage boy’s room: the odor. There are always damp towels mildewing in a heap in the corner, and dirty laundry scattered everywhere. That musty, oniony fragrance currently making your nose hairs shrivel — is it armpits? Feet? The moldy towels? The aforementioned crusty dishes? A sandwich rotting in a duffel bag? The possibilities are endless, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
What does that mean?
If you want to feel like the oldest, uncoolest person on the planet, then by all means ignore my advice and ask this question. Because that’s exactly what will happen when you inquire after an unfamiliar word or phrase you’ve just heard coming from your child’s mouth (typically yelled during some kind of video game chat with his “bros”). You ask innocently, for example, “What’s ‘no cap’ mean?” and you’re met with — at the very least — an eyeroll of epic proportions, if not an outright accusation of being elderly and out of touch.
Yes, it’s our job as parents to be in touch with our teens: their online safety, who they’re hanging out with, whether they’re turning their homework in on time. But when it comes to certain things, it’s best to just put our blinders on and focus on getting through the teen years without that awful smell wafting into the rest of the house.