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Parent Moments: The Ick Factor

The Ick Factor

Through the pre-dawn darkness of our bedroom, I hear Henry's husky, 7-year-old voice: "Mom?''

I'm instantly awake.

"Yes?" Although I can barely make out his features, I feel his breath on my face.

"I think I'm going to throw up."

"Why?"

"Because I just threw up in my mouth and swallowed most of it. Want to see?"

You know those dreams where you're trying to scream but nothing comes out? Then you can picture the scene as Henry proceeds to open his mouth, about 1 millimeter from my face.

Somewhere between kindergarten and first grade, a disturbing trend began in our home. It started innocently enough with a gift from our favorite sitter: Totally Gross: The Game. We had some chuckles over the ick factor -- no big deal. Then someone gave us a copy of Walter the Farting Dog for Henry's seventh birthday, and appropriate humor was gone with the wind (sorry). Soon after, we were inundated with books and toys spotlighting "gross" bodily functions. It's what I call the "too much information" genre and it's everywhere -- I mean, have you been to the movies lately?

And what's the fallout from all this focus on blech? Well, let me share a typical day: On the way to school, Henry and Julia recall their favorite gross story because it happened along that very path. As they walked with their father on one fateful day, they found an old, discarded pizza box. Someone decided to open it up, only to find, gasp!, slices of shriveled, decaying pizza, covered with slugs. I was happily elsewhere drinking a latte and managed to avoid witnessing this riveting bit of drama, however, I get to relive it almost every time we reach that familiar piece of sidewalk. Recently, a friend who watched me turn a bit green during the umpteenth retelling of the Slug Pizza story suggested I pit my children against each other in a little competition to see who could go the longest without saying, mentioning, or alluding to anything icky or nasty. Here's how it went:

Walking to school: "Mom, what's that?"

"What?"

"That." Finger pointing. Shirt tugging. Of course, it's dog poop and it qualifies as "disgusting," so I start to say, "remember we're not pointing out anything gross for one entire day," but it's 8 a.m. and the contest is already over.

I sit to rest on a bench while they play in the park after school -- only the bench has a bit of squished banana on it that I manage both to sit in and to spread all over my bag. Henry and Julia see me grumbling and struggling with Wet Wipes, and they gather 'round.

"That's disgusting, Mom!" they yell. And at that moment, I'm so glad they're furiously nodding their heads at the righteousness of my repulsion. Because even though I don't usually appreciate the extra bits of disgusting information they dole out, I know that this phase won't last forever. One day, they'll be monosyllabic teenagers unwilling to share even the tiniest detail of their day -- let alone to help me wipe an overripe banana from my rump.

So for now, I'll take whatever observations of dead bugs, chewed-up food, and mystery slime my children give me. The thought of them cutting me out of the loop -- that grosses me out even more.


What kinds of off-the-wall things make your children laugh?


Author Emily Miles Terry is coauthor of 'Nesting: It's A Chick Thing' and a columnist for the Dream Team newsletter for Familyfun.com.
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