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Tweens and Teens Hygiene and Habits

Moms of Tweens: Welcome to the Stinky Years

When your kid's age hits the double digits, magic happens. And by "magic," I mean the type that, like, makes funk grow in Petri dishes during science experiments.

One day you're hugging them and catch an unmistakable whiff of a rancid armpit, and at first you're horrified because you think your own deodorant must have failed you. But just as your mind is racing — you've used the same reliable brand of antiperspirant for years! — an even more horrible realization comes to you: the stank is actually emanating from your previously pleasant-smelling (or, at least, neutral-smelling) child. It's like someone punched you in the gut. Or, you know, in the nose with a big, stinky fist.

It's the not-so-sweet smell of a tween, and it's the harbinger of impending puberty, bringing with it every paranoia you have about the years to come.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop at the pits, and you start to realize that tweens are inherently gross. They're in a weird spot where they don't fully realize the social impact that walking around like a garbage heap in sneakers could cause, so they don't really care what they look or smell like. In a little while, the allure of the first real crush will make them want to spruce themselves up a smidge, but for now, they just don't see the point.

Their feet, the same adorable little piggies you used to kiss and tickle, are now contained in socks so crusty they could probably walk to the washer themselves (ohhh, if only). Their shoes are the "before" scenario in a Febreze commercial, but you only wish you could go "nose blind."

They'll talk in your general direction, and their words will be delivered on a wave of breath so heinous that you'll wonder if it was just a very articulate-sounding fart. Then you'll realize that you no longer check their toothbrush for usage because you automatically assumed they reached an age where they could be trusted to brush responsibly — but no. Apparently you still need to remind them, using bold threats like, "Your teeth are going to fall right out of your head!" to try to get your point across. (Spoiler alert: it still doesn't work.)

Much to your dismay, you also have to remind them to use actual soap when they shower, because what seems obvious to you (or any showering person) is lost on a tween. Which is why they emerge from the bathroom smelling like a wet dog, with their hair still half-dry, leaving mounds of inexplicably soggy towels in their wake.

Because that's another thing: the slovenly nature of a tween, and all the gag-worthy scents that accompany it, doesn't stop at their personal hygiene.

Because that's another thing: the slovenly nature of a tween, and all the gag-worthy scents that accompany it, doesn't stop at their personal hygiene.

You'll find that their room is a place you visit less and less frequently as it becomes more and more depressing to set foot in. Once a cheerfully decorated haven, maybe with a few toys scattered around the floor on its messiest day, it has now turned into a festering dump. The tween's suddenly ravenous appetite and increased desire for privacy combine to make their bedroom a graveyard for every wrapper and dish they secretly spirit away. (Yes, even if you institute a "no food in the bedroom" rule. Maybe especially then.) It's like the gross-out factor of finding a sippy cup full of curdled milk in the toy box multiplied by a thousand. You'll find cereal bowls with gelatinous mush pooled thickly at the bottom, half-eaten granola bars, hardened bread, blackened banana peels, and enough dirty drinkware to require two trips to the dishwasher. Every drawer and cubbyhole becomes a trash receptacle and yet another reason to shriek, "We'll have rats!" Or roaches. Take your pick.

But there's always a light at the end of the sewer tunnel. You only have to harp on their foul habits for a year or so before they finally realize that, yes, good hygiene is indeed preferable to not giving a damn. Like anything else they've gone through, it's just a phase, and this too shall pass.

Just make sure you don't inhale too deeply until it does.

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