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My Family Is Gross and I Am Disgusted. How Do I Deal?

All the shedding, smelling, and pooping in close quarters is too much for one dad. The Goodfather offers some advice.

fatherly logo Ask the Goodfather
Dear Goodfather,

My home life has lost it’s luster because everyone is… gross. We’re all sweating, breathing, pooping bodies and I’m just grossed out. I can’t stand watching my kids chew coarsely at the dinner table. I’m tired of knowing the timing of everyone’s bowel movement. even the cat’s hygiene is driving me nuts. everything is disgusting and I’m going to lose it. if I haven’t lost my mind instead. do you feel me?

Grossed Out in Green Baby

 

I do, in fact, feel you, man. I suffer from a touch of misophonia (a condition where sounds prompt unreasonable emotional reactions). Sadly, it’s most often triggered by hearing my wife chew — especially, and bizarrely, when she eats cereal. I have no idea why the sound makes me want to rend my own flesh in agony, but I also recognize that such an emotional response is wildly irrational. I manage it pretty well by deep breathing and making sure there are other sounds to focus on when the feeling is extreme, but I also know that in our current stay-at-home circumstances it’s far more likely to pop up. Communication is key. And I think that’s where we’re going to kick off with your kind-of-not-really-request-for-advice.  

Unless you’re a drive-time shock jock or gross-out comedian (same thing I guess) it’s not often that we communicate exactly how absolutely disgusting we are as humans. That’s a shame because most of the gross stuff we do is part of our natural biological systems that help keep us alive and healthy. We need to expel excess gasses that result from our diets. That’s just a fact. We have to eliminate waste and regulate our body temperature. We need to chew our food and rid our body of mucus. We are real, live, pooping, peeing, sweating, burping, farting, chewing, spitting, nose blowing beasts. There is simply no way around it. But it’s interesting that we don’t talk about that fact unless we’re playing it for laughs. 

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In our house, we generally try to normalize this stuff. We talk about poop and pee. We talk about sweat and stink. And we talk about the fact that they are natural processes and aren’t particularly unique or remarkable outside of academic fascination with how efficient and wild our biology is. 

Granted, that biology is fascinating. And it’s particularly fascinating for kids. So, what you’re experiencing now, my man, is what we in the parenting advice business like to call an “educational opportunity.” Because everyone is up in everyone’s business, it’s time to use the exposure to educate kids on what’s normal for the body, what’s safe for the body and what bodily processes can spread viruses and bacteria to others. 

By shining a light on the stuff you’re being repulsed by you can accomplish a few important things: You can help your kids understand good hygiene practices. You can normalize bodily functions and tamp down some of the kid-based potty talk. You can get out of your own head and remember that this stuff comes with havin a family in close quarters. And you can put it all in the context of what’s normal versus what’s polite. 

That last point will be super relevant for you. Because it’s important for kids to understand that while we are all stinky, consuming and excreting animals, we are also polite enough not do do these animal things where we eat and socialize. In Old Testament terms, or The Byrds if you’re not into biblical references, there is a time to every purpose under heaven. There is a time to pass gas and a time to excuse yourself from the table. There is a time poop and a time to refrain from talking about poop. There is a time to sweat and a time to shower. Turn turn turn.

Of course figuring out when these times are requires a certain amount of practice. And it will be easier for you if you talk about practice rather than coming down hard and fast with rigid rules. Body stuff is weird. Much of it is not controllable. And frankly, children need to develop the skills to recognize when they’re about to burp or fart and being harsh when they make a mistake will only serve to instill in them a healthy dose of shame. And you don’t necessarily want to saddle your kids with shame for stuff they can’t control.

Speaking of control, you might want to consider working on controlling your own repulsion to your family a bit. I don’t think you’re experiencing anything clinical, but you could do with a little perspective taking. The fact is that there may come a time when you miss all those smells and sounds. So take a breath … Maybe not a deep one … And know that while your family ight be gross, you’re lucky to have them. 

If all else fails, invest in some nose plugs and noise cancelling headphones.