I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me Older Kids Are Even Harder To Keep Clean Than Toddlers‏

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dirty kid

Lord knows, I remember scraping disgusting, dried-on milk crud from my chubby baby’s neck fat. It would smell like sour awfulness and make me want to throw up. Then, there was the joy of cleaning out every little crevice during a diaper blow-out and wondering if I should just give up and hose them down. Mealtimes were obviously a joke until a certain age and we simply grew accustomed to scrubbing tomato sauce off of tiny torsos (forget wearing a shirt.) Babies and toddlers are messy, of course, but what I never expected was how hard it would be to keep slightly older kids clean and tidy.

My children are seven and five. They have both recently protested the idea of parent-assisted showers. They very badly want to do it all themselves and we are trying hard to respect their privacy but of course, we have to make sure they are cleaning themselves the right way. This means that instead of wiping away milk crud with a wet cloth whenever I see fit, I am instead attempting to surreptitiously sniff an armpit to make sure the older one is washing properly. I am also checking their dirty underwear for skid marks to see if we need any re-training in Butt Wiping 101. I do it all as discreetly as possible because I truly do not want to undermine their bodily autonomy and burgeoning independence but I also don’t want their teachers thinking we are smelly and not monitoring our children’s hygiene. It’s a delicate balance to say the least.

There is also the matter of their teeth. They hate when we do it for them but the dentist is insistent that until around age eight, no child can properly brush their own teeth. Every morning and evening, we have bickering about teeth and all the while, I am checking pits and making sure everyone’s shoes aren’t too smelly. Big kids have the potential to be just as gross and high-maintenance as little ones, no question. It’s just different things that require maintaining.

As far as coping with it, I have found it helps to buy them soap or body wash that they love and they both have cool washcloths with their names on them. I let them pick out their own toothbrushes too. If I have to buy them anyway, might as well give them some control over it. We talk a lot about how as big kids, they have to learn how to take care of their own bodies and that when we are out in public, we should try to look clean and presentable. We talk about how it’s not just about how things look, but also, about their health. I sprinkle baking soda into their sneakers, keep lots of baby wipes handy and hope for the best. Instilling good hygiene habits in older kids is just one more parental task that I hadn’t given much thought to but is consuming large amounts of my time, nevertheless. Such is life as a parent. There is always something new on the horizon and often, it’s gross.

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