Why We Do Disgusting Things for Our Kids

Sep 19, 2011 10:26am

I’ve heard other people talk about it and sure enough, once I became a (mildly inappropriate) mommy, it happened to me: my tolerance for wet, dirty, disgusting things has gone up … way up. In no particular order, here’s my top five list of gross — or at least, what other people might find gross — things I will do as it relates to my kid.

1. Eat food off the floor: Whether it’s animal crackers or a chicken meatball, if my kid dropped it — which he does a lot — I’m going to eat it because I really, really hate wasting food. That, and I can’t find my Dustbuster.

2. Wipe his snot-ridden nose with my finger: Eat your heart out, Kleenex.

3. Subject myself to a drool facial: Unfamiliar with that one? Try holding a teething infant above your face for any length of time. You’ll understand real quick.

4. Touch poop: I’m not saying I grab my son’s full diaper and treat its contents like Play-Doh. It’s more a question of what happens when he himself somehow managed to touch said contents and then threatens to put his cute little fingers in his mouth. That’s when I won’t hesitate to grab his hands, even if it means mama gets a turd manicure in the process.

5. Clean up vomit: That spew stain your college roommate left on your dorm room carpet? Shameful. This afternoon’s partially-digested chicken and peas adorning his crib sheet? Charming!

Here’s what you might not realize — my and your willingness to get our hands dirty with the kiddies is apparently the culmination of two competing evolutionary traits. On one hand, as renown sociologist Frank Sulloway explained to me, we’re developed the emotion of disgust for the sake of our own safety, ie. the smell of spoiled food keeps us from consuming said, probably poisonous, spoiled food. On the other, more obvious hand, as parents we’re programmed to put up with disgusting stuff, “even at considerable cost” to ourselves, to promote the welfare of our kids.

So parents, let’s collectively pat our self-sacrificing selves on the back, shall we?

Don’t pat too hard though. When it comes to (literally) stomaching revolting things for our offspring, other mammals may have us beat by a mile. Our furry friends will lick the afterbirth off their newborns’ fur  — I repeat, lick the afterbirth — which helps prevent chilling, said evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber.

But wait, there’s more.

“Among their other tasks, (mammalian) mothers often remove feces from the young, sometimes even by eating it,” he said. “Much of this is disgusting to humans. The mothers themselves might feel differently.”

What disgusting things have you done for your kids? Share your stories below.

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