OMG! What Is That Smell?!

Are your kids getting a little ripe? Do they starting smelling a little funky if they haven’t taken a bath in a couple days?

I ask because, around here, as early as fourth and fifth grades, schools are telling kids to wear deodorant. They’re telling elementary aged kids, and I’m sort of paraphrasing, “You smell gross. You need to wear deodorant to school from now on.”

Next thing I know, my 11-year-old son is strutting around the house in a cloud of “Axe – Dark Temptation” spray deodorant—sending me into a tailspin of college memories I’d sooner forget. My son is so taken with the manliness of antiperspirant that he sprays himself with it from top to bottom.

The last time he did that, I marched him right back up the stairs and into the shower to get that god-awful smell off. I’ve confiscated the Axe and I dare him or anyone else to bring that into my house again. The recycle bin can hold a lot of spray cans.

This stinks on so many levels

First, our kids are hearing from teachers, not just television anymore, that their natural state, their natural aura is offensive. At the age of 10, before they’ve even hit puberty. Don’t our kids get enough messages that they are not okay as they are from every other corner of the world? Can we not just let it go for a few years—at least until they hit puberty?

Second, for the kids that really do smell offensive, empirically offensive, we’re overlooking the causes and going straight to a bad solution. After all, what’s worse than covering up a bad smell with a perfumed one? It fools no one and just makes the stink doubly disgusting.

Some kids-and adults-really do smell bad. But why cover it up instead of addressing the underlying causes of bad body odor? Instead of using the opportunity to address dietary, toxic, metabolic, and floral sources of the offending aroma, we’re telling our little kids to head to the nearest drugstore and pick up a stick of night-club scented deo and bathe in it. Health’s article here is a good start for pinpointing causes of unusually stinky BO.

There’s a kid that goes to school with my kids. I don’t know who he is or what his name is but the neighborhood kids talk about how bad he smells of both body odor and cigarette smoke. They’re certain this middle schooler smokes cigarettes because he reeks so badly—like Pigpen in the Peanuts comics.  Has no one had a talk with this kid’s parents about how his coating of tar and nicotine are affecting his ability to hang out–the main activity of pre-teens? Surely if the parents knew they’d do something about it. Okay, maybe not but someone ought to try.

Don’t Cover It Up? Figure It Out!

Our natural scent is supposed to be pleasant, even the end-of-the-day stink should not be so disgusting as to make people breath out of their mouth. If we bathe somewhat regularly (for kids) and eat well, we should all smell reasonably good even when we sweat. I wish I’d understood earlier in life how apocryphal one’s personal bouquet is of so many things—good health and romantic compatibility being the top two.

If we cover up our scent, how will we sniff out that we have a toxic build up, or cancer, or systemic candidiasis? How will we know that our partner actually smells good to us and we to him or her? What happens when we find out we really don’t like their natural aroma and that we picked the wrong person!? Our sense of smell can confirm or deny so much about the world around us—polluting the sense with overpowering aromas only deadens our instincts (pun not at all intended) and our awareness of the natural world.

For the most part, our kids smell just fine if they’re eating a healthy diet as close to the source as possible. If they don’t, let’s at least be positive and helpful to each child. Let’s help them pin down the source and fix it–with love and humility. Don’t tell them they make you want to vomit–at least not until they start growing armpit hair. They already have enough to worry about in elementary school.


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