Hygiene. It is an important part of living well in society. There are the basics like, you know, brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face, bathe and then there’s the not-so basic, like keeping your finger and toenails, neat and trim.
And, while you ladies may not get this, awesome, toot-sweet cleanliness and hygiene are not high on the old priority list of young males of our species. Boys, left to their own devices, would just exist, doing whatever it is boys do. Climb trees. Dig in dirt. Wallow around in muck. Play sports, sweat a lot and eat pizza. We — society as a whole and males in general — should thank our lucky stars there are women in the world to help us get out of our own way.
That said, I have always tried to steer the lads, my sons Shamus and Sean, in the “right” direction. Which is not to say, I tried to brainwash them to be little neo-con Republicans. Far from. Rather, as they were growing up, I would try make doing things they were ‘sposed to do “fun.”
For example, doing laundry is a chore and, as such, sucks (that is unassailable male logic). That said, I figured laundry time was also a good time to introduce the concept of team work to the boys and to work on their hand-to-eye coordination. Women readers are probably in shock now reading this, but I think the dads out there will get it.
Laundry time went like this — oh, and I forgot to tell you — I paid to have the laundry room plumbed for two washers and two dryers — where was I? Oh, yes, laundry time went like this:
I would measure in the detergent, set the washer settings, get the water running in the machines and set up a boy by each (when Sean was younger and shorter I would set him up on a machine), and then the fun started. From the basket I would rapid fire throw clothes at the boys. They had to catch and dunk the clothes in the machine fast and be ready for the next bit of laundry or they might get some undies in the face.
And nobody (not even stinky boys) wants that to happen.
It was the same type of production to get the wet clothes out of the washers and into the dryers. Let me tell you, it only takes a couple of times getting whacked in the head with wet clothing to get your hand-eye coordination on par with cat-like reflexes.
The boys, now young men, still do laundry so those lessons I count as success. However, I wonder if they still have fun doing the laundry. I know, I don’t have as much fun doing it these days. Especially folding, ugh!
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Potty training was cool. Potty time, they learned, was a time to read. Ladies, it’s a guy thing. Don’t try to understand because you’ll just hurt your brains.
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And now we come to another ploy I devised to help the boys be hygienically-acceptable, not only to their mother, but to the world at large. Finger and toenails. Yup, kinda gross I know, but they need to be kept clean and trimmed. AND, after clipping, nails need to be picked up, not left on the floor. My idea?
“Boys, let’s pool our discarded clippings together,” I said in a moment of father-sons bonding, “and start a Finger and Toenail Collection!”
And, so it began. On November 1, 2008, eight years ago this very week, when the lads were 10 and eight respectively, we started. I found a box, dated it and we all signed our names in it. As an added incentive for them to trim and cleanup after themselves I added this caveat, which can be seen in the box, “Guiness Book or Bust!” (I know, I spelled it wrong. Sue me.)
Tip to the ladies out there: If you want boys to do something, make it a competition. We males are programmed to compete and we like to win.
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Since this week marked the eight year anniversary of our trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, I asked the boys about our efforts.
Said, Sean (now 16), “Yeah, that’s kinda gross.”
Shamus, who will turn 19 in a few weeks, had a big “no comment.”
Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time and their fingers are not icky and there are no nail clippings on the floor. You may disagree, but I am calling this a victory.
Do you have secrets to help boys live to adulthood and be productive, clean members of society? Email Don@ShermanPublications.org.