This child is the sweetest kid on the earth, very sensitive, loving and kind, with a particular affinity for animals. He has a huge stuffed animal collection that must be kissed every night before bed, and he absolutely DOTES on our cats and our bunnies. He really is a sweet, wonderful, loving child and a real light in my life.
But Oh My God, he is the most hygienically-challenged child to ever live on this earth.....or so it feels sometimes.
My husband, Mr. WellRounded, was packing to take the older three kids to a special camp this weekend. He told the kids what they needed and told them to go pack it in a back-pack. He wouldn't check up on whether they actually packed what they were supposed to, though, and knowing my younger son the way I do, I decided I'd better check.
The child had simply "re-purposed" a bunch of dirty clothes from his last Cub Scout campout. He had dirty, smelly socks in there, dirty pants and wadded up shirts, and worst of all, some rather nasty underwear with major "skidmarks" all over them (I may end up burning them). Thank goodness I made a point to check his pack!
So off we went, down to his room to get clean clothes. I had told this child to clean his room several times over the last few weeks but had not personally checked it recently. He swore to me it was perfectly clean. Uh-huh.
Well, it was "clean" in that there was a path from the door to the bed, but that's about it. Every inch of dresser and bookshelves was covered in the "treasures" of childhood, there were piles of books and comics all over the floor, and the dirty laundry was overflowing from his hamper (despite a number of requests to bring it to the laundry room the week previous).
I'm concerned this child will be a pathological hoarder because he seems to be unable to edit his own stuff. No paper is ever thrown out, no matter how trivial or inconsequential. Anything he has ever made, no matter how cheesy, can ever be discarded. I work with him on editing his schoolwork and paintings and such, and he helps me choose what to keep and what to recycle....but he doesn't seem to be able to do this on his own. Even with my help it's very difficult, much more so than with his siblings.
I asked him this summer to bring up any clothes that were too small so we could give them to the cousins. Nothing ever came up. When I went down to his room yesterday, he had so many clothes in the drawers that he couldn't shut the drawers. He had everything from a size 8, 10, 12, and 14.....all at the same time in those drawers. Even though most things were clearly too small for him, he couldn't manage to organize them into a pile or consider letting them go. It was just too much for him to do on his own.
Well, I don't expect that a 9 year-old will be able to edit everything on his own, but by now he should be able to edit some stuff without me there during the whole process. His older siblings could at this age. And while cleanliness is a struggle for all of them (they think I'm a cleaning fanatic; trust me when I say I'm not!), none of them struggle quite as much as this child does.
He's also a walking stain-attractor. You can give him a perfectly clean shirt first thing in the morning, and before he leaves the house for school it has a stain on it. All of his clothes are covered in stains. I should buy him stock in the "Shout" company because we use so much of it on his clothes. Every kid gets some stains and I'm not that uptight about that.....but this kid is a walking petri dish.
Clean socks? Sometimes.....but often not. Often it's regular shoes with no socks, rather than go get a pair of clean ones. I don't know what he has against clean socks, but he doesn't like changing them.
Clean underwear? A concept he actively resists. I actually have to resort to "cheek-checks" some days to see if he really has put on clean underwear, even after he swears he did. Often, his cheeks fail said checks.
Now, I'm not a believer in keeping kids spotless. If they are out playing like they should, they're going to get dirty sometimes. That's okay with me. I can deal with that kind of mess, and I expect it. It's a sign of good imaginative playing.
But I also know how kids can be ostracized among friends and adults for looking filthy and in particular for smelling bad. I don't want that for my kid, so basics like clean underwear, clean socks, and occasional changes of pants and shirts are non-negotiable.
Even so, it's really a struggle with this one. He really is like Pig Pen from the Peanuts comic. You can practically see the clouds of dust and grime around him as he walks.
He is as sweet as the day is long......but what person is ever going to be romantically interested in him when he looks and smells like Pig Pen? I just hope this is a stage he outgrows......but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen (or maybe I am, just to deal with the smell).
Do you have a Pig Pen in your life? What did/do you do to help him/her?