Oooooh That Smell: Living with a Stinky Kid

It will happen. You will think your baby is immune to it and that it’s an affliction that only claims children who log 30+ hours each week in the Pit of Filth otherwise known as McDonald’s Playplace, but you will be sorely wrong. You’ll wake up one morn lacking the ninja skills to effectively rid your child of their ubiquitous eye crusties. It’s happened.

You’ve got a grubby kid.


Not even an iota of remorse

Grubbiness is more than just a blowout diaper or an entire cup of grape juice dumped down the front of your child’s white sundress. While massively catastrophic at the time, those can be cleaned with a dunk in the tub. Grubbiness, however, is more persistent and insidious. It comes in droves. It’s playground grit under their nails, oatmeal woven through their hair, a random rash likely caused by the duck poop they carried around the park for ten minutes before you noticed.

Wee Cee has been nursing a case of the nasts for nearly two solid weeks now, and I don’t see it abating until she’s off to the prom. I am incapable of staying two steps ahead of the film of babyhood that is constantly building up all over her. I will find a smudge of yogurt behind her ear and then recall that the last time she ate yogurt was two days prior. How could this happen? Is she stockpiling the stuff in the cavity of her Sleep Sheep and breaking it out when we think she’s napping?

I think it all started when she actually grew some hair. Up until recently, C has been sporting the natural pixie look. I birthed what was effectively a cueball and her hair was slow to come in. Then, the back overtook the front and now she’s got a Carol Brady flap-back thing happening. I lie. It’s a mullet. My child has hockey hair. Hockey hair that is constantly in that precarious cradle cap zone (“cradle cap” sounds so much cuter than “dandruff”, which is what it really is) and smells like wet dog even after it’s been shampooed.

Speaking of dogs.

You know how it’s kind of cute when your baby is teething for the first time? How those front teeth come in and you can just give them some frozen toy that assuages their pain? Yeah, it’s been my experience that teething molars is a completely different, disgusting ball game. The pain that is brought on when her molars come in induces so much drool that she looks like an inbred hound dog lacking a barrier lip to fight the influx of saliva. And that colorful teething ring? LOLOLOLOL. She gnaws on her hands and my keys and rocks and and and.

It’s gross.

The good thing about molars, though, is that she can now eat more. I say “good” because I’m ironic. C is all about helping herself to whatever we’re having and smearing it over her hands, face, elbows, and highchair, but when it comes time to clean up after her meal, she makes like Regan McNeil and thwarts all our attempts to clean her off. It burns. IT BURNS!

Often, an odor that’s not that bad but certainly not right will emanate from her pores. I’ll smell something off and realize that it is my girl who I got done scrubbing vigorously not twenty minutes before. All the soap in the world will not be able to cleanse her of her musk of burnt cumin. The most fun she’ll have all morning is when she toots or burps loudly and then grins as if the secrets to the universe made themselves known to her through the bubbles of her gas. She’s basically a yogi of stank.

And crusty crumbs.

And playground sand packed into the tiny lines of her palms.

And onesies dotted with a potpourri of orange and purple stains.

Grunge was a style of music popularized by bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden when I was a preteen. Now it’s one of the recurring themes of my life. But that C? She doesn’t smell like teen spirit.


  1. Yeah, I swore it wouldn’t be my kid either and then they fought so hard when I tried to clean them, eh, I gave up. One quick swipe was all I could get. Anything else would just have to hang around till bath time, whenever that was. It doesn’t get better. My kids still smell when they get out of the shower and now they’re too old to bathe. Best I can figure is when they get interested in someone, they’ll care. Great post.

    1. That’s definitely what did it for me. Nothing motivates a thorough cleansing like a teenage crush.

  2. My best advice is to shop thrift stores for now. And ever. It hurts less to destroy a shirt that costs a dollar.

    Have her feet started stinking yet?

    My best grubby baby story was when my first kid was a year old. Husband took her to the grocery store, and who should be in line behind him but Pat Summit. It was then that he noticed the chocolate milk stains around the kid’s mouth, the oatmeal in her hair, her mismatched pajamas, and the boogers all over her nose. It was a special moment. I think he made an impression.

    1. I should think he did! I love how I know exactly who you’re talking about. Good ol’ Rocky Top.

      Her feet haven’t started stinking yet. *Knocks on wood.*

      1. When mine hit age 2, things took a turn for the *phew*

  3. First kid had 12 wardrobe changes with shoes and socks and always smelled of Baby Magic, Second kid was mostly clean most of the time. Third Kid is damp and smells faintly of a dirty dish rag….from hell! Thanks for the post!

    1. My pleasure! I think I am going to add “baby magic” to my vocabulary.

  4. You speak the truth my dear… kids are gross. ;)

    1. They are nasty but oh-so-sweet ;D

  5. I know. It’s a full time job trying to keep a child half-way presentable. And it’s a losing battle until they are about 13. Then they start their own wardrobe changes and you are faced with them going through 4 or 5 outfits a day and they haven’t even had a chance to dirty them. A far cry from their earlier days. You can never come out ahead.

    1. It certainly seems that way. I think I only outgrew the 4 or 5 wardrobe changes per day when I got pregnant and my clothing choices were severely limited. Before then, I would put on eleventy billion things before I left the house. Now I just put on some sport shorts and a t-shirt and I’m ready to take on the day.

  6. Oh my gosh, this needs to get F-pressed! It’s amazingly funny. You captured all the stanky places and the subtle culprits. Well done, Em. And thanks for the morning laugh.
    By the way – I’m no stranger to that sour smell of food and sweat lodged in the creases of the neck. Not even a smell a mother could love… well, okay, maybe. :)

    1. Thanks, Lisa! The infant neck stank is the absolute worst! I was so glad when C was finally able to hold her neck up on her own and stop spitting up because I just could not abide with the neck film. So gross.

  7. So funny, Emily! I agree with the above, kids are gross and you nailed it in this post.

    1. Thank you, Rachelle!

  8. Sorry to tell you, dear, it doesn’t get better–the smells just change as the children grow. Getting a girlfriend simply changed one teenage son’s signature odor cloud from eau d’ foot decay to eau d’ fusty-old-man-just-got-baptized-in-rank-cologne-and-windows-must-be-opened-in-january-so-the-dog-doesn’t-die kind of smell.

    1. I had a feeling it would be around for awhile. The smell of my brother when he was a teen haunts my memories.

  9. sidney · · Reply

    AWESOME !!!!!

  10. If everyone in the house is a little grungy – it makes it less noticeable… I’m just sayin’

    1. We’re a family of grungeholes!

  11. Umm…yay for building an immune system?
    My sisters dog used to eat rocks.
    And then throw up.

    1. I keep telling myself that she’s going to have the most virile immune system in the world. No hasmat suits for my girl!

  12. I’ll read your sweet posts about C and I’ll want a child of my own. And then I’ll read stuff like this and I’m like hmmmm never mind.
    I love the last sentence. Awesome.

    1. I like to keep it balanced. ;D

  13. I love these posts about baby and her habits! I don’t even have a little munchkin but I’m, on some level, empathising. Maybe I have memories of my own grossness from childhood?

    1. I’m glad you like it! I think we can all slightly remember how gross we were as kids. The smell of little boys coming from the playground back to the classroom covered in playground dust and sweat when I was in elementary school has stayed with me in a bad way.

  14. You birthed a cueball. That is the best line ever. That is all.

    1. She was! My adorable widdle cueball.

  15. I like how filthy the kids are. It takes the pressure off to be a clean bear.

    1. It’s definitely hard to argue in favor of tossing the bears in the washing machine when the kids have potatoes growing out of their ears.

  16. I gave Baby C a small bowl of Doritos that he asked for last night. By the time he was done I had to wash his hands and face, vacuum, and bust out some Woolite fabric cleaner for the couch. Eating is not just a necessity, it’s an adventure.

    1. Well said. Tonight I had the brills idea to feed C berry sorbet in my brand new white shirt. Now it is my brand new dusting rag.

      1. Forgot to don the hazmat gear, huh? Oops.

  17. Yummy!
    your writing is absolutely hilarious….I needed that today.

    1. Thanks! Glad I could provide ;D

  18. Yeah – welcome to toddler. :)

    1. It’s fun and gross!

  19. tiptoebay · · Reply

    Yes, I totally concur, and the older my daughter gets the more dirt she seems to find!!

    1. It’s like they are little dirt detectors! I thought our home was clean but she manages to find the grosses corners of it.

  20. You have me LOLing all over the place

    1. Yay! Your laugh is the best of them all, m’dear ;D

  21. You are hilarious! What gets me most of the time is my one year old’s smelly feet! The grown man I married doesn’t ever even have feet that smell that bad, and some how my toddler manages it ever. Single. Day. I do bathe him, honest. Lol

    1. Thanks, Alyssa! Yeah, I cannot understand how such small people make such – ahem – large smells. It boggles the mind.

  22. This is a post that might come back to haunt you Emily, when C’s 30.

    1. I think that the same could be said of 90% of my blog.

  23. Yup, for now it’s still your problem. How can such sweet angelic babies become such stinkers?
    When they get older and walk around with chocolate ice cream all over their face and insist that they are fine is another story. You just have to let them take their lumps, especially when another kid asks them why they are so dirty and you want to scream out: I told you so!

    1. You sound like you’ve been there ;D

  24. Ok, so I just fell over laughing at the mess that is Wee Cee. I usually assume that babies are broken vacuum cleaners that suck up everything but not really and make a mess out of all of it.

    1. Thanks, Navi! She tends to pick up all the things she’s not supposed to have.

  25. Inbred hound dog? I dub thee Queen of Simile and Metaphor.

    1. It’s good to know the debt I am still carrying from graduate school is serving some purpose.

  26. I have so much to look forward too! Currently the little prince smells okay most time, and stays relatively clean too, since he can only move where we move him too. I see him eyeballing things though, and I know it is only a matter of time before he starts crawling and discovers the joys of playing in the litter box, of shoving cat food (and other leavings) everywhere, and finding all the places in our house we thought were clean but were actually covered in a fine layer of cat hair… Oh, the joy. I can’t wait. I think there is something wrong with me…

    1. For all the grossness of it, it is a really fun age and something to look forward to! But you’re in the middle of a beautiful time too. Everyone is probably already telling you to enjoy your son’s infancy while he’s still in the middle of it; it’s so true! He’s going to be walking and babbling and being superlatively yucky before you know it. ;D

  27. Oh baby, and the stink just gets better with each year… believe me about this, too. ;-)

    1. Hehehe I totally believe you! You’ve been in the motherhood trenches for far longer than me!

      1. Even my trenches’ trenches smell…

  28. “She doesn’t smell like teen spirit.”
    Best. Line. Ever!

  29. […] Oooooh That Smell: Living with a Stinky Kid ( […]

  30. I remember when my nephew first had body odor. It really threw me for a loop because I didn’t think that would happen until he was in junior high. It’s a specific type of odor that kids have, very off-putting. It’s a good thing they’re so cute.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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