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[ Personal Narratives ]

Stanky Boy and Mom Guilt

My nose is too sensitive.

That is what my husband and two sons say.

Of course, they are wrong. The guys, especially my eldest son, just stink. The simple cure of a shower and brushing teeth seem to be too daunting. My boys don’t even help with laundry, so it’s no skin off their backs to throw their clothes in and get them washed after every use… but no, “they are fine, Mom”.


For the majority of their childhood I was sober, but not all. Daily, they took showers or baths and brushed their teeth. Wasn’t it supposed to become a habit? I was very far from a perfect mom, but hygiene? I got that right. I’m sure I did. Maybe. Grr.

Yesterday, my son took what I call a “fake shower.” That’s when I nag him to go take one, he grabs a towel (no extra clothing) and goes into the bathroom. He turns on the water. Maybe 3-5 minutes pass. Voila! out comes Stanky Boy.

When he departs, he thinks I have not noticed that his hair is still dry, that he sprayed deodorant all over his sweaty armpits, and that he has on the same clothes he went into the bathroom with. (And maybe the same underwear, too?) My intelligence and nose are horrifically insulted.

And, to top it off he gets belligerent when confronted. “I took care of it, Mom,” “It doesn’t matter,” “No one else will notice,” and “Just stop,” he says.

Stanky Boy has me in a panic.

He is going to be on his own soon. Will he take care of himself without me? How will he ever get a companion? What is wrong with him? What did I do wrong?

I wonder if he would be different if I wasn’t so lazy with taking care of myself—my sobriety. Maybe he is angry and this is his way of showing it? If it is, well, shit. I am glad it is not drugs or drinking, but it is still self destructive. It’s gross. Maybe he will grow out of it and he’s just immature. But what if it’s more than that? What if he doesn’t care about himself?

I am afraid I failed and raised my child to not care about himself. He isn’t making an effort to fit into society: just the opposite. He is being rejected. He is causing his own pain. I am scared. And I am heartbroken that I failed as a mother in not teaching my son that he is important, that he is worth self-care. He is as good as anyone else and deserves to fit in.

I might be reading too much into the situation. Maybe not, though. He is off to college next year and his basic skills are lacking. He is entering the race of adulthood with a broken leg. And I wonder: did I break his leg with a bottle?