50 Shades Of Gross: When Your Child Is The Booger Eater

by Annie Reneau
betoon / iStock

A couple of years ago, we were visiting some family friends. Our kids are about the same age, and the children galavanted about the house while the adults hung out and chatted.

At some point, I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water and was greeted with a horrifying sight. My child’s dirty socks. Wadded up. Sitting on our friend’s kitchen counter.

Lest you think that the perpetrator was a toddler or preschooler who could be excused for such heathen behavior, my child was 10. Ten years old.

I wish I could say that’s the only example I have of one of my children grossing everyone out with their filthy habits.

But it’s totally not.

I consider myself a fairly refined person. Our family likes to laugh at farts, but that’s about the only objectively uncouth habit we have. My husband and I have tried to teach our children to use good manners and generally be as non-repulsive as possible. But I fear we have failed.

One of my children, who shall remain nameless, used to pick their nose and wipe it on their pillow every night. At least, I’m assuming it was every night because when sheet-washing day came around, I would find a substantial forest of crusties covering one end of the pillowcase. So nasty.

All three of our kids were nose-pickers throughout their younger years, despite our showing them by example and training how to use a tissue, despite our constant and consistent reminders to keep their fingers out of their nose, and despite us making them go wash their hands when we’d see them digging for gold. Despite everything, they insisted on picking their boogers.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, we occasionally caught them in the unthinkable act of picking their nose and eating it. Ugh, I almost threw up in my mouth a little just writing out that sentence, but it’s true.

I distinctly remember one of my kids at age 4 digging deep into their nasal cavity at a table full of people. I told them to take their finger out of their nose, which they did — along with a humongous booger. As I started to tell them to get a tissue, you guessed it, they put their finger right into their mouth. It all happened in slow motion, me saying, “Go grab a…noooooo!” in a deep, creepy slow-motion voice, while my child downed their booger like a Tic Tac. The environment, a public restaurant, only amplified the embarrassment for both of us.

I’m still trying to figure out where we went wrong. Are kids just naturally disgusting little creatures? Does it simply take years and years of training to get them to behave like civilized humans with a modicum of discernment about what’s acceptable? Are our kids still on the spectrum of normal, just on the ickier end of it?

The worst part is that I know people blame me and my husband for our children’s caveman-like behavior. We’re the parents, right? Haven’t we taught them anything? Every time one of our kids does something nasty, I want to hold up a sign that says, “I SWEAR WE AREN’T RAISING THEM LIKE THIS.”

My only consolation is that we have managed to raise one child to the teen years, and she’s no longer gross in public in any way. Quite the opposite, in fact. And our middle-schooler very rarely embarrasses the family anymore, so at least we know that our parenting strategies do work in the long term.

I also felt much better when a friend’s son was over at our house the other day and left his dirty socks on our dining table. He’s 10 years old, too. My first reaction was, “Ew!” immediately followed by, “Oh, thank goodness!”

It’s a relief to know our kids aren’t the only ones.