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Children Should Be Seen and Not Smelled

I wish I was a parent during the age when children were "seen and not heard." That must have been a beautiful time. A time when teenagers would never even have considered slamming a door and screaming "You are ruining my life!" at the top of their lungs; a time where 10-year-olds were too mannerly to interrupt an adult conversation with a "one time I…" story or to give a blow-by-blow description of the most recent Sponge Bob episode (or whatever the equivalent would have been in that time – maybe Sir Sponge Robert Freshly Pressed Pants). Just to have your kids sit still, making no sound and without the aid of video games, cell phones or DVDs…what a wonderful world that would be.

Well, that is not the age we are parenting in. We're in the Electronic Age where children who are told to just "go outside and play" go slack-jawed and mouth "go where and do whaaaaaa?" as they look at their parents like Mom and Dad have three heads and have just asked them to walk through a wall of fire. So, a more realistic goal for parenting these days might be summed up in this new adage for parents of the 21st century, "Children should be seen and not smelled." And sometimes that's a stretch too.

I'm constantly amazed at the variety of odors wafting across a room when children are present. Everything from bubble gum and Sour Patch Kids to socks a 10-year-old has been wearing for three days straight (which includes two basketball practice sessions) to unidentifiable scents so overpowering you would even consider covering your nose with a sock your 10-year-old has been wearing for three days straight. And the kids seem oblivious to the fact that they smell like a hard boiled egg that's been stuck under the seat of a car for a week in the middle of summer (this actually happened to me, by the way – a rogue Easter egg one of my daughters "forgot" about). They have no qualms about jumping right on your lap, squirming around to make sure their scent is completely mixed into every molecule of oxygen in your air space, like there's nothing in the world amiss, like they smell as fresh as daisies.

Can children not smell these malodorous aromas themselves? Or is it that a child's sense of smell is like the decision-making and judgment part of the brain – it doesn't develop fully until they're in their 20's. That would almost make me feel better, that they don't have the capacity to comprehend just how much they reek. I hate the thought of them knowing how foul smelling they are, but just not caring. Or worse, they enjoy smelling like cavemen after a day of hunting on a hot, humid summer day.

I wonder if you could smell the children in that Golden Age where children were seen and not heard. My guess is yes, since bath time was never a quiet experience in my household, especially when the kids were toddlers. Screeching, splashing, crying because the shampoo got in their eyes. Sound was very much a part of our bathing ritual.

But even if children in the Golden Age were a bit rank, at least they were quiet. Parents today have to deal with both issues. Stinky, noisy children are our legacy. But summer's here and with it comes a solution to one of the issues: we can just throw them in the backyard with a bar of soap and hose them down every couple of days. Sure, they won't be quiet during the cleaning process, but at least they won't smell like something the cat dragged in.

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