This post first appeared in March 2010. I have reposted it in resposne to the discussion on @thecoffeeklatch about manners, etiquette, social convention, including hygiene.
We have now come across an issue that I have never had to deal with before, and that is a hygiene issue. There was never any problem with getting the boys to bathe or brush their hair or change their clothes. In fact the idea that they would be dirty in any way shape of form causes them a lot of anxiety. This time it’s not so bad that a little OCD has crept into the daily routine. In fact one of the best times of day for both of the boys is bath time. I know it sounds silly saying bath time in referring to older teens but that is exactly what it is. They love lolling in the water and reading, playing their video games, or sometimes they even sing to themselves. So instead of singing in the shower we have singing in the bathtub. I have never had to fight with them about getting in the water. Interestingly they do not like showers, just baths. We do have them stand and rinse off from the bath before they get out of the tub, but it’s quick. Falling water from a showerhead is different on the skin than the still, calming waters of a bathtub. Sensory issues abound don’t they.
Now this does not mean that there aren’t daily reminders to get a move on and take care of yourself in a proper manner. They understand what the concept of hygiene means and how important it is. We used to have a list in the bathroom of everything they needed to do in the morning. Brush teeth. Wash face. Comb hair. Change shirt after you spit tooth paste on it from brushing your teeth…you know little lists like that. (So why didn’t I have them remove their shirts before brushing? Then they would have spit on themselves and that would cause an entirely new and time consuming emergency bath problem. Sometimes the path of least resistance is still best.) But I guess we were lucky. They do care about their appearance, and yes I know, it will even get better when the “girlfriend” comes along. Hopefully that will be in the near future for collegeman, it’s about time. (In fact everyone who has known him for a while now, says a girlfriend is the thing he really needs.)
However, one issue we did and do have occasionally is with HSB and teeth brushing. HSB does have oral motor and sensory issues. On top of sensitivity to the toothbrush and the fact that he just can’t stand the bristles in his mouth, he also wears braces. I think in many respects that the braces make it even more difficult for him to brush. They just add to the sensory overload that occurs when something is placed in his mouth. Now think about it. If you had an extra sensitive area on your body and were forced to wear something continually for years that made that area on your person very uncomfortable would you want to add to the discomfort anymore than you had to? But he has to brush his teeth. There is no wiggle room there. OK, so knowing this about his sensory issues, why did I put braces on his teeth? Truthfully to ward off any complications down the road having to do with the shape of his lower jaw in relationship to the rest of his head. You think that it’s not a big deal, but it is. The teeth are the gateway to the heart and heart disease is the biggest killer in the US.( Surprise!) Plus if the jaw and the rest of the skull are not aligned properly then there can be painful headaches, earaches , sinus infections even sore throats. So much is connected from the mouth to the rest of the body it is important that if he can find a way to tolerate braces, then he needed to have them put on.
Luckily the braces placement process is slower than you think. It’s not done in one day or even in one week. It happens over a several week period and in the case of HSB they even took a little longer for him to get used to having both upper and lower braces. I tell you accept for a few days of gingerly eating his food, HSB’s food intake really did not slow down at all. If food can go in, we know that we can work around the sensory issues in his mouth. One way to overcome the teeth brushing issue is to use an electric toothbrush. We use an electric toothbrush with a smaller brush head and have him use a timer to make sure he lets it go for 2 minutes. Anyway, HSB does brush his teeth. It is not easy for him. I think on many a day it is uncomfortable for him. But brush he does, quite often under our watchful eye.
The orthodontist also instructed him on how to hold up his upper and lower lips to be able to reach the tooth enamel so as not to have other long-term problems. What we have also done in order to ensure that his teeth are truly clean is to have his teeth cleaned every three months instead of every six months. Yes, I know yet another expenditure. But what are you to do? Straightening the jaw, the teeth and aligning his mouth but letting the teeth rot out of his head, doesn’t make too much sense now does it? Can’t you just see it, solve one problem but create a new one. You know that really is the story of our lives, isn’t it? All I can say though is that life is never dull.
But the truth of the matter is that the real and total issue I was thinking about for this blog was a hygiene issue for collegeman. Now no one is more fastidious in his appearance than this young man. I can’t even imagine what he will be like if he ever gets a girlfriend. He spends more time getting dressed and primping than I do. We like to say that collegeman takes after hubby’s youngest sister, who at this age would take almost three hours to get ready to go out to dinner. No kidding, I watched her many a time. I think it’s a teenage thing, heck, when I met her she was only all of 16 years old. Now her oldest is going to graduate from college. (Crap I’m getting old)
Anyway, collegeman hates to shave. Of course, that HSB has a poster on the wall in his office that extols everyone about how boring shaving is doesn’t really help matters much either. Oh, yeah did I mention that HSB has a pencil mustache? We keep asking him if he wants to shave it, but I think he thinks it’s a badge of honor. Truthfully it looks a little out of place. HSB definitely still has that baby faced look about him, with the exception of this mustache on his upper lip. On the other hand, it’s really kinda cute. Now as far as collegeman is concerned, however, he definitely has a full growth beard. Total and complete. If he didn’t shave it off occasionally, by now he would have birds nesting in it. Last year, was really the first year that the full beard starting to grow in. It does make collegeman look much older than he is. He, like HSB, without the beard, still has that younger probable teen look about him. However, with a beard he looks almost 10 years older than his is.
This wouldn’t bother us so much if collegeman had the maturity to go with the look of his age. Yes, I have to admit the reason we kept trying to get him to shave, besides the convention that he should be clean shaven, is that he looks younger than he is and it’s helpful in how people perceive him. When he does act very immature and has a beard society’s reaction is not one of smile and understanding. It is rather “what the hell is wrong with that one over there.” So as with most things that we annoy him about, it is our belief that being clean shaven for him is for his benefit. But guess what, he hates to shave. Truly truly despises it. Yes I know that is also very age appropriate. Young men when they start to have a full growth beard need to grow into the concept that they have to shave daily, maybe even twice in a day. But knowing that doesn’t solve the issue.
However, after a year of arguing and reminding and door slamming (him not us) we have come to an understanding. Collegeman can keep the beard as long as it is kept neat and trim. If he lets it get raggedy (I don’t care if that’s the new look, ala Brad Pitt) then I will take a razor while he is sleeping and shave his face. Oh yeah believe me I will too and he knows it. Keeping your hair neat and clean is part of your hygiene. It’s a lesson they learned early on and the rule now finds its way onto his face. That is why he is working with hubby on how to groom the beard. He just needs to stop laughing every time hubby tries to help him groom his chin. It seems it’s a tickle spot and he just can’t help himself. (To try to get me to not be so against collegeman keeping his beard, Hubby tried to remind me that he had a full growth beard at this age. I also had to remind him that when he came home from college with that beard and his mother (she should rest in peace) saw the beard she locked him out of the house until he shaved it off. “Oh yeah, he had forgotten that part. Never mind then.”)
But really, what are you going to do? As long as collegeman keeps himself properly groomed he can have a beard. I guess we are just going to have to deal with the looks we get when this young man who looks to be in his middle to late twenties starts to whine in public. On the other hand, there tends to be a lot of whining going on in society as a whole today, maybe no one will notice. For once collegeman will be considered part of the crowd.
Until next time,