the goat pen

Ah, the ‘tweens…that newly coined term denoting kiddos who are not quite teenagers yet still not little children. It’s a tricky time in parenting; we’re hitting the mid-life period of those 18 years we are given with our offspring living under the same roof with us. It’s the middle age of parenting; the crises will abound.

Gone are the mornings filled with fingerpainting and Gymboree classes. Franklin and the Backyardigans are replaced by the awfulness that is Victorious and iCarly. Late afternoon jam sessions are now fueled by the likes of Shawn Mendes and Imagine Dragons, instead of the innocuous Justin Roberts and Frances England. Long gone are the afternoon naps.

But the funny is still there, although now some of it has morphed from cute-funny to cringe-worthy-funny.

Take, for instance, our inaugural ‘tween Topic of Awkwardness: body odor.

I picked my sons up from sleep-away camp last summer, so excited to have them back with me and to hear the stories of their adventures in the mountains of North Carolina that I didn’t even mind the 2-and-a-half hour trip up there. But before we’d even made it back down the mountain–barely ten minutes into the return trip–my car smelled like a goat pen.

We barreled down I-85 with the windows cracked open, despite the pouring rain. I assumed the stench was wafting up from their trunks, stuffed with a week’s worth of sweaty, filthy, mildewy, unwashed clothing. What I didn’t realize was that this magnificently gross smell was just the tip of the iceberg. The odor has followed us, permanently, from that day forward, drifting up from the back seat after school, after baseball games, after birthday parties. Add the powdery, pale pink, baby-fresh scent of Johnson & Johnson’s to the growing list of things that we’ve now outgrown.

When I was this age, my dad used to tell me that I smelled like Mother Nature–which I took as a compliment. I must smell green and springy, like hide-and-seek and freeze tag with a splash of softball and climbed tree, all happy and joyous things, I thought.

Mother Nature definitely does not smell like that. Mother Nature smells damp, musky, and earthy, like mushrooms and soil–the undeniable smell of ‘tweenage boy.

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Cue the first awkward discussion between mom and son:  the deodorant talk.

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Jack hid his head under his pillow and giggled through the whole, 20-second gentle suggestion of the benefits of smelling less piquant. The next day, I plunked a green Mennon Speed Stick on his bathroom counter while he was at school. The day after that, Tucker swiped it; in his mind, he and Jack are twins born 19 months apart, so if Jack needed deodorant, then he certainly did, too. Thus, the second Speed Stick entered our house, where it sat unused–nay, unopened even–for several weeks.

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Cue the second awkward discussion between mom and son. Apparently Speed Stick was not the cleaner smell Jack had in mind. “Hey, that’s fair,” I thought and then went a little crazy. You see, after decades of flip-flopping between the overpoweringly fake perfumed scents of Degree and Secret, I recently stumbled upon a true extravagance: Donna Karan Cashmere Mist. Designer deodorant. Utterly ridiculous. Utterly worth every penny. I speak the truth.

So the Speed Stick was replaced on Jack’s counter by a stick of Calvin Klein Be deodorant, which smelled youthful and happy and crisp and faintly like an old crush I had back in the early ’90’s. Jack deemed it acceptable, and, taking that first baby-step towards adolescence, began to wear it every day.

I’d tamed the goat pen.

Briefly.

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Go Mom!

Jack returned from a trip to Washington DC with Mother Nature dragging along behind him. Upon further inquiry, it seems our new pal Calvin had been left behind in a hotel somewhere in Virginia. Lesson learned:  no 11 year old needs expensive deodorant, no matter how nice it smells.

We headed off to the K-Roger, and I deposited Jack at the deodorant aisle with instructions to pick one while I did the rest of the grocery shopping.

Twenty minutes later, after sniffing every single option the shelves had to offer, he came back with this:

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And that, dear reader, is why my car, my house, my every waking moment no longer smells like a goat pen.

Instead, it resonates with eau de goat pen…during breeding season.

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I kid you not.

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