Tonight, as the boy swaggered into his bedroom, not at all excited about getting into bed and ending his day, he asked me, in his sticky, sweet voice, “Mom, will you snuggle with me for a bit?”
And seriously? How could I not? Because honestly, I know that in the blink of an eye, he’s going to be sixteen and saying things like, “Hey! Stay out of my room!” I have to take the snuggling while I can, people.
As I cuddled up next to him tonight, and listened to his prayers, all I could smell was Berry Blast shampoo. It smelled like a plethora of artificially flavored berries were sitting right beside me, and I said, “Wow. I can really smell your shampoo tonight.” And the boy replied by asking me, “Mom, do you remember when I quit washing my hair for a while?”
Sometimes horrific events get burned into our memories, where they are seared forever, and no amount of psychotherapy can release us from them.
About two years ago, not long after the boy declared himself physically big enough to take his own showers, with no adult intervention whatsoever, I began to notice that he didn’t smell at all pleasant. In fact, our boy began to smell like a garbage can. I became distraught. Worried. I was afraid that the body odor had hit our wee boy a whole lot of years too early, because he was getting into the shower at nights, and he was getting out, soaking wet and apparently very clean, and he didn’t smell heavenly at all. The stench seemed worse if my nose was in close proximity to the boy’s head, so one day I asked him, “When you wash your hair, how do you do it?”
He looked at me like I’d sprouted horns atop my head and fairy wings on my back. Bewildered. Slowly, he put his hands to his head, and rubbed them all over his hair. Truly, his hesitant demonstration seemed to give every indication that he was washing his hair appropriately and passing all the state regulations for shampoo usage with flying colors.
Still, the odor persisted. I talked to Hubs about it.
“Hubs,” I said, “the boy isn’t smelling quite right.”
And Hubs replied, “I’ve noticed. Is something wrong with him?”
And that’s a question that no parent wants to ask: Is something wrong with my child? Um, he bathes, and he smells like a Wild Thing. Yep. I fear something is wrong with him.
We contemplated buying him deodorant. People, he was in the first grade at the time! Do first graders even know what deodorant is??? We contemplated calling his pediatrician, but what would we tell her? “Hi, it’s Hubs and Jedi Mama, and we’re a bit concerned that the boy doesn’t smell at all right.”
We consulted him about his armpits. Did he wash them in the shower? Yes. Did he use soap when he washed them? Another resounding yes.
Finally, about four weeks into the ordeal, I was making out a grocery list, and decided that the boy’s shampoo bottle was probably nearly empty, because it had been a lengthy bit of time since I’d last bought him any. I walked into the bathroom, picked up the little fish-shaped, bright-blue, made-just-for-kids bottle of shampoo to determine how close to “completely gone” we were, and, people…it was plum full.
As in, it was as heavy that day as the day I’d bought it, about six weeks earlier.
I marched into the boy’s bedroom, where he was constructing some gravity defying structure out of Legos, and held his shampoo bottle up for him to see. “What are you using for shampoo when you wash your hair?”
And he looked at me, like a startled bunny rabbit who has just noticed the fox watching him, and muttered, “I don’t actually use shampoo anymore.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Mom, I gave up using shampoo a long time ago. It just takes too long in the shower to wash my hair with it, so I just get my hair wet and get out.”
I know! I was as grossed out as y’all are. Sweet mercy, I cherish the Clorox wipes and the Clorox jugs and the Windex and the Tide and every manner of fume-inducing cleaning product on the market, and my son was admitting that it took too long to use shampoo, so he’d given up on it.
For weeks on end.
And this coming from a little boy who spends so long in the shower, he can drain the hot water tank dry, which is saying something, people, because we have a tankless hot water heater, which means that, as long as we’re blessed with electricity, we are blessed with an eternal supply of piping hot water.
Needless to say, there was immediate parental intervention. We showed the boy pictures of dreadlocks and explained to him how bugs can take up residency in one’s scalp when one doesn’t use the Berry Blast shampoo to get them out. Did we go overboard in our explanations? Probably. But it worked.
And tonight, as the boy and I snuggled side-by-side in his bed for a bit, right before he fell asleep, he whispered, “Mom, I still think it takes too long to use shampoo, but I do it for you.”