Baths lose their splash as boys grow up

Kids stink. Actually, boys stink. I know, because I am the
parent of a particularly stinky little boy.
Kids stink. Actually, boys stink. I know, because I am the parent of a particularly stinky little boy.

Now, it’s not like boys are born allergic to bathtubs – this develops over time. When boys are very little, they enjoy taking baths. They can play in the tub for hours. Splashing, playing with those stupid colored bathtub crayons that aren’t supposed to stain your grout but do so anyway, and pouring water in and out of a vast assortment of cups and bowls. Yes, boys love to bathe.

Until they are about 6 years old.

Just when boys start playing hard and getting really smelly, they realize that the bathtub makes them clean. And clean isn’t a good thing to a 6 year-old boy. I think the rule of thumb is that the dirtier your hair is, the cooler you appear to the other boys.

Well, I couldn’t stand the smell. Junior needed to bathe. So I told Junior that girls didn’t like boys who stink. Well, that backfired. Junior was ecstatic.

I had forgotten that girls were cootie-carrying people to be avoided by 6-year-old boys at all costs. Knowing that girls didn’t like stinky boys made Junior even more determined to avoid bathing.

Next, I tried compromise. A clean and sparkling little boy every day of the year was probably too much to hope for. So I told Junior he had to take a bath every other day and any time he played soccer. I figured that was a decent compromise.

Well, you would have thought I’d asked Junior to get the economy jumpstarted. He whined. He pleaded. He argued with me. How on earth could he possibly take a bath every other day? Clearly, I was asking too much of him. Didn’t I know he was only 6?

So I tried bribes. Yes, I know. All the parenting books say to avoid bribing your children. Well, let me tell you, those people apparently do not have sensitive noses or stubbornly dirty little boys. I told Junior that I would let him stay up 10 minutes later on nights that he took a bath.

And I am proud to say, the bribe worked. For a few days at least. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but Junior refused to take a bath after about 4 days of cleanliness. I guess another little boy noticed that Junior smelled clean and made fun of him. And that was the end of that.

I was truly at the end of my rope. I even stopped taking my allergy medication in the hope that my nose would get so stuffed up that I wouldn’t be able to smell anymore. Actually, that worked, but then my ears plugged up and I could no longer hear.

Since I was dismally failing at this, I decided to take the question up with other moms. My friend, Nature Girl, told me she just gave up. If her son wanted to smell like a stinky old shoe, she’d let him.

Another friend told me that she had a rule: no stinking up the minivan. As soon as her son smelled so bad that she couldn’t concentrate on her driving, he had to walk home from school. But a third friend wisely told me to try showers.

And it worked. I told Junior that since he was a bigboy, he could take a shower, just like Daddy. I even bought him a nice little assortment of Harry Potter shower gels, soap and shampoo.

The first evening, he was in the shower for a half hour. Yes, it was a waste of water, but it was worth it. Junior hadn’t smelled that good in months. And after a week, he still loved taking showers. He took one every single night.

But one day I noticed that he smelled a bit funky again. That night I sneaked into the bathroom and took a peak. And there was my son, in the shower. Hot water was cascading from the showerhead, steam was forming on the mirror and Junior was sitting as far from the water as he could get and still be in the tub. Not one drop of water had touched his body.

So I guess I’ll have to invoke the minivan rule. But I have to warn Junior; it’s a long way from our house to the school. It’s either that or abandon the allergy pills – and my hearing – again.

Laurie Sontag is a Gilroy stay at home mom who wishes parenthood had come with a how-to guide. She can be reached at [email protected]