“Hurry boys! Come see this gross thing!”
They came running, of course, and I couldn’t believe the words that had just come out of my mouth. But this was a bonding opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
The fragrant plug-in that had been lodged into the laundry room outlet in order to de-stinkify the place was breeding moths. I had finally unplugged it in order to replace the flashing Christmas tree light with a yellow daisy decoration, and when I did, a swarm of tiny insects flew from the outlet and the back of the device.
I knew it had been plugged in for a while, but I didn’t for a second think that it had been there long enough to produce life.
It’s telling that my first thought was to call my boys. I’ve spent 24 years bonding with my children over disgusting things.
When we adults are in our early stages of parenting — the gullible years — we think that we’ll bond with our young bundles of joy over all of the glorious wonders that the world has to offer: sunsets, seascapes, purple mountain majesties and all that.
But I’ve learned that if I want to get a reaction from my kids, a thing has to be gross. And if it’s not gross, it must be dangerous, or, at the very least, downright weird.
They’ll have a contest over who can peel off the longest piece of sunburned skin.
They’ll battle each other with overgrown toenails.
They won’t pull out their smartThings to text a photo of a lovely butterfly, but if I find a snake on the deck, they’ll come running with iPhones at the ready.
On one family vacation, all four of my kids were yawning through a glass blowing demonstration, but when I announced that the bathrooms were fitted with brushes that popped out of the wall to clean the toilet seats, they all perked up and scurried to the stalls.
I think we humans have to age into appreciation. I think that happens around the time that afternoon naps become appealing. Until then, we are entertained by the bizarre.
My oldest son once gave me a Mother’s Day gift of handmade organic soaps and bath salts. Their therapeutic scents were specially chosen for me (based on my taste in music, incidentally) and they all promised healing and energizing properties.
One of them was designed to massage; it was filled with essential-muscle-relaxing-oils and crusted with nubby beans to work out the kinks. It was my favorite of the soaps, but after a few weeks of trying to work it into a lather, some of the beans started washing off.
Around the same time, I noticed that the shower water was backing up. Then one morning I went to collect the bath towels, and to my horror, I discovered that the beans had sprouted in the shower drain.
What did I do? I immediately called my son, of course, who was fully impressed. And he doesn’t impress easily. We couldn’t believe what his soap had done.
It turned out that it was not a soap at all — it was simply a “massage bar,” and I was never supposed to just add water. We could have grown a salad if we had only known.
I unscrewed the drain so that we could lean in and get the full view of grass growing from below the tiles. It was a magical moment. We hovered there above the grout, mother and son sharing in the spectacle, and we gazed and guffawed in disgust.
Is this column getting too gross for you?
Call your kids and bond over it.
By Robin Jean Marie Conte