Just Because My Teens And Tweens Are Old Enough To Take Charge Of Their Hygiene Doesn't Mean They Will

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Scary Mommy and Philippe TURPIN/Getty

The other day, I opened the trunk to load all of our beach towels, feeling really proud of myself that I’d gotten up early enough to get my teenagers’ asses up to get to the free parking section of our favorite beach. They go fast, but if you make it there by nine, you are usually in. I was feeling unstoppable which is more than I can say for most Tuesday mornings.

My kids were sitting in the car waiting for me, noses bowing to their devices, and I should have known my day was about to go down the shittier when I saw my daughter facing her window with her T-shirt over her nose to protect herself from the odors which were permeating from my son who was sitting next to her.

As soon as I opened the door, with thoughts of the smell of coconuts, sunscreen, and the salty air, I was smacked in the face with what smelled like one-thousand rotting onions that had shit themselves. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’ll have you know a few flies flew in the car and raced outta there as soon as they smelled my son. Pig Pen’s got nothing on my teenagers these days.

I had to rip the ear buds out of his ears (which makes me gag because it looks like those fuckers were dipped in my caramel candle, only they weren’t), and tell him to shower and change. He is almost 13 years old, mind you. I shouldn’t have to have these conversation, or give up a free parking spot because he doesn’t know when to rid himself of smells that resemble a dumpster. There are times when I let it slide, and times when I take other people’s noses and gag reflexes into consideration. This was one of those times.

It baffles me though. When my children were babies, I bathed them and layered them in powdery fresh smells like lavender and citrus. I always have a scented candle burning in the house. And if the trash stinks, I take it out immediately. While I am not a perfect housekeeper, my house smells nice and I have taught my kids how to keep up with their hygiene, so I’m not sure where the disconnect is. I know they can smell themselves, and the fact they feel good about walking into a public place smelling like a blooming onion with hints of asshole is beyond me.

Not only do I have to ask my kiddos to keep themselves clean, it seems to put them out so much I find myself saying things like,”You could kill a small animal with your smell, and you cannot have your iPod back until you take a shower!” I honestly don’t now how the hell I got here. When they were little, they begged to take a bubble bath every night — the more soap the better. Now, I’m pretty sure they turn on the water and stand at the side of the shower giving me the finger on the other side of the door.

I looked down at my son’s toenails after he told me the shoes I just bought him were too small. His nails were about an inch past the tip of his toes and were all broken and chipped. It looked like a rat had been gnawing at them. I suggested he cut them. He wasn’t into it.

I do laundry almost every day and my oldest never has anything in his pile except maybe a shirt or two I’ve picked up off the floor and put in the washing machine myself. I’m pretty sure this means he wears the same pair of underwear for about six days in a row before they land between his bed and his wall and never see the light of day again — Lord knows I’m not going to go searching and clean his underwear for him. I have enough things that cause nightmares in my life.

My kids are lovely and I think they are pretty damn adorable. I had visions of the teens/tween year involving them standing in front of the mirror doing their hair, fighting over who gets to take a shower next, and turning the upstairs into a cloud of cheap perfume and body spray. But it’s not turning out that way. They have regressed in the hygiene area and I’m the one suffering.

When I buy deodorant, they make miniature sculptures out of it. Somehow the fruit-scented shampoo and conditioner I buy goes unused, and I can repeat what the dental hygienist is going to say after she looks in my kids’ mouths verbatim.

It’s not my fault though. I’ve taught my kids well, but they are bigger than me and I don’t feel like carrying them to the bathroom and forcing them to soap up. People can judge me and the way my kids smell and their stiff hoodies if they want. I need to save my energy for things like making sure I look up to par so someone can represent our family in the way I want to be represented. I simply cannot do both most days.

I’m hoping my kids will either one day get a whiff of themselves, or lose enough friends to start showering, clipping, deodorizing, and trimming regularly. Until then, I’ll be bribing them, breathing through my mouth, and waiting for the day they don’t want to walk around smelling like corn chips and sadness.

If you have a smelly teen or tween, I’m sending you healing, good smelling vibes. Solidarity.

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