Puzzled I am … (Yoda would love my style).
Actually, not so much puzzled, as increasingly troubled on the subject of children’s hygiene;
I have an overly-sensitive sense of smell. This, for the most part, is a wonderful attribute, particularly living in the country (albeit can be somewhat overpowering just before rain when all the tractors come out with their silage trailors!) but it also means I can pick up on people’s ‘odours’ a mile-off, be it a beautiful perfume or indeed the need to wash. I am therefore constantly amazed and, honestly, somewhat disgusted at the state of cleanliness (read un-cleanliness) of a huge number of young children out and about.
One example: I have a new group of kids who come to me on a Saturday morning for Structured English Play. One set of twins goes to the same Kindergarten as my son and the family lives in a very “respectable” village nearby. I say this to set the scene of potential, rather than to attribute the level of cleanliness and hygiene (in this case) to a particular social class.
The boys have been to me twice now and both times I was forced to open all the windows in the room to avoid a very quick onset of nausea. Not only were they filthy (hands, clothes, mouth) but they reeked of urine, their socks were on inside out and stank and their hair – well, I would not like to guess what was living in it. They are not the only children I know whose general cleanliness leaves a lot to be desired, although the standard of living around me is relatively high.
I don’t get it. Am I in a minority for thinking there is something horribly wrong with this scenario?
Surely, however much we earn / don’t earn, most of us have access to water, a cloth and some soap? It cannot be attributed to poverty that a child is allowed to leave the house dirty and smelling. Can it??
Perhaps it’s just a matter of priorities: Some Mums throw up their hands in horror if I mention that L. had a shower that morning, exclaiming (translated of course): “Oh my Goodness! oof, I work / have two kids / am so busy with such a big house, you know? /(…) that I just don’t have the time to be putting the kid/s in the shower in the morning!” well, I’m sorry but just don’t go there with me: there’s an awful lot that I cannot / do not make the time for these days but my child’s cleanliness is something I would readily sacrifice other things for. Even on the days where I oversleep after a long night-shift, I might give in and concede that we don’t have time to shower, but I still subject L. to what we laughingly call a ‘flic-flac’ wash, which constitutes hands, face, neck, underarms and the nether regions. It really does only take five minutes. He no longer smells of bed and of, well, little boy’s nether-regions! and he, himself, enjoys the feeling of ‘being clean’. “I don’t have time for that” doesn’t equate to really not having time, but rather “I can’t be bothered”.
With regard to clothes, how difficult is it, as a parent / guardian, to take a quick look at our kids’ clothes in the evening and chuck the dirty stuff on the washing pile. Answer: not at all. I appreciate that people have more children than me plus a partner – the sum of whose attire probably creates a heck of a lot more washing than I have to deal with, but then I juggle mine with my work, my son, my house and my ever decreasing sleep allowance too; To me, it is completely ridiculous to have a child running around in 65 Euros worth of labeled hoody, if it is covered in last night’s dinner and reeks of sweat from the football game last Sunday. But I guess it’s just about what is important to us as parents.
One final aspect to this which is, perhaps, secondary, but which should possibly also be considered by us all as parents: is it really ok to send a child who does not smell particularly fresh, into an environment with a potentially large number of other children, the sum of whose ‘unpleasant odeurs’ could actually make for a really miserable day for those having to look after them (nursery nurses / teachers / child-minders etc.). I think not. For me it is enough to have to deal with three boys in my lounge for an hour, so what it must be like in the middle of winter (windows closed) in a school-room of 35 I cannot imagine.
It’s too easy to say ‘Ah, but they’re boys. Boys are always smelly!’ – wrong: My boy doesn’t and I know others who don’t either, irrespective of night-time accidents or little leakages during the day. L now tells me if he didn’t quite make it to the toilet in time and even if he just spotted a little in his shorts, he now goes and helps himself to a clean pair.
I believe it’s simply about leading by example; however late we are in the morning, however annoying it is to have to send a child back inside to put on clean socks / change his/her underpants or to wash its face, if we did it regularly enough, wouldn’t the child grow up to learn that personal hygiene just ‘goes without saying’ and would start to do these things automatically at some point – saving us all time and effort? Maybe the child would even grow up to respect it – making the whole ‘washing’ and respectability thing a little less dramatic into the teenage years.
I’ll tell you something else, the teachers would love us all the more for it too!
Perhaps I am just a little neurotic on the subject – I’d love to hear your thoughts.