Friday, April 6, 2012

Personal Hygiene

I promised you growth this month. Now that I've made the promise I'm hoping the first growth disucssion doesn't cross the line into gross.

There we were last week, on vacation, walking back from the beach when Child #1 took my hand to cross the street. I looked down at her sandy little fingers entwined in mine and almost had a heart attack. It could have been a touchingly sweet moment but the long dirty talons that were digging into my palm turned it into something else.

"Child #1," I said. "We need to clip your fingernails."

"Nooooo," she screamed and hid both of her hands out of sight.

Here's the backstory.

We have a troubled history with fingernail maintenance. When the kids were babies I was terrified an accidental slip of the nails scissors might draw blood from their teeny, tiny little fingers. So, to my husband's complete revulsion, I practiced the art of oral nail maintenance on my babies, which is a fancy way of saying I bit their nails. I know, I know, a little disgusting but the combination of sleep deprivation and irrational fears of new motherhood was enough to make me do all kinds of wacky things.

Over the years we've progressed away from oral nail maintenance...slightly. Child #2 now bites his own nails. I consider this progress. Especially since little boy's hands are not known for their cleanliness. My current policy with respect to little boy hands is I refuse to taste, smell or have them rubbed on my face unless they've been thoroughly washed.
Right now they look like these, but...

Which leaves Child #1 and her fingernails. Clipping her nails involves a highly choreographed routine. She hides her fingers, makes me talk to them, insists each finger perform a little dance and sheds tears if I cut any of them too short. This turns a five minute chore into one that takes fifteen minutes.

So back to our vacation, our holding hands, our retreat from the beach. Child #1 screamed and instead of arguing with her I took a deep breath and said, "Okay, you can do it yourself."

"No," she said, eyes wide, shaking her head. "I won't do it."

"Then they'll grow even longer and break off. They might even bleed."

"Noooo," she shrieked again.
Maybe someday they'll look like these?

"I'm done being your manicurist." I told her and even though it had the sound of an empty threat I realized, at that moment it was true. She's no longer a baby. The stakes are low and she's fully capable of cutting them herself. If they're grimy or she breaks one then maybe that will force her down the path that I've been trying to lead her for ten years.

Yesterday she had piano practice. "Did your piano teacher ask you to cut your nails?" I asked after it was over.

"Nope," she said with a grin. "I cut them last night."

That was it. End of story. I let go and gave her room to grow. In retrospect, I think we both grew a little.


Anne Gallagher said...

Oh, that's funny. I used to do the Monster's when she was asleep. She wouldn't sit still long enough for me to do them, and yes, I drew blood once and it freaked me out.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I don't even like cutting my own nails, so I can understand your daughter's reaction. Right now I'm starting to hit the wrong keys on the keyboard, so I know I need to do it soon.

Shell Flower said...

That's such a great story of growing up. I've definitely drawn blood a time or two with my son's nails back in the day. Now he cuts them meticulously but it took him until his teens to do it without me harping on him about his gross nails. I still consider it a chore for myself, arg, my nails grow way too fast.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He bites his own nails which is progress - funny!

Jenny S. Morris said...

My son just can't fathom why I must cut his nails. He is also scared because he saw me accidentally clip a little too much when his brother was a baby. But I insist that we always do it right after he gets out of the bath.

What do you do about his toes? I really hope he doesn't bite those as well. ;0)

Rick Daley said...

The first thing my wife did with our first son when we got home from the hospital was cut his nails. I have always been afraid to try that with either child. Fingertips are important.

Weaver said...

Way to go! One of the things I was dedicated to for my children was to teach them to be self-reliant. They moaned and groaned when I taught them manners, how to clean things, do their own laundry, and how to cook. I hated feeling helpless when my mother became ill with a brain tumor when I was fourteen (it killed her), and I didn't even know how to turn on the washing machine. No way would my children end up like that.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I was scared to clip my babies' nails, too. Especially after hearing a more seasoned mother say, 'Flour works well to stop the bleeding." All I could think is, "How much do they bleed?!"

Johanna Garth said...

Anne, the blood thing is so scary.

Diane, that's why I keep my nails short too.

Shell, I wonde why nails seem to grow so fast?

Alex, I'll take any progress I can get.

Rick, I agree with you on the importance of fingertips.

Thanks Donna! Self-sufficiency is so important.

Rachel, I think that would have completely freaked me out!

Connie J Jasperson said...

Hahahaha!!! We used to struggle with that problem too! Finally, the child who was the most difficult not only became adept at doing her own nails, she became the only one capable of clipping the dog's nails! Children are an endless source of entertainment!

Angela Cothran said...

All my kids hate cutting their fingernails. You would think I wanted to cut off their fingers :)

Nicki Elson said...

Oh, those little moments of letting go are freeing, but a little heartbreaking too. Congrats to both of you on successfully taking that step. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

I waited until my son was asleep to do most of the clipping. But he was pretty good with the clippers while he was awake. He was fascinated by the shiny silver of the clippers.

Then he went through the whole icky bite your fingernails stage and now? "MOOOOOM, where's the clippers?" Where they usually are my son, one pair in the drawer another in the tray by the toothbrushes.



Carol Kilgore said...

Who would've ever thought that fingernails could become a problem :)

Cassie Mae said...

I'm such a nail biter, I'm a horrible example when it comes to clipping nails, lol.

Sarah Tokeley said...

It just goes to show what they will actually get on and do if we leave it to them.

Once, my daughter asked me to do something for her that I'd always done(I forget what it was). I was too busy and told her I would do it later. When I went to do it, I found out that she'd already done it. I asked why she hadn't always done it. 'Because you do it for me' was the answer.

PK HREZO said...

Aw, she's growing up! Nice job, Mom. I once did the unthinkable clipping my baby son's nails... nipped the skin and it bled. My poor baby (who's 7 now) still wont let me clip My hubby has to do it. :s

The Bookworm said...

All part of growing up :)
It was always a mission to cut my kids nails especially their toes. I used to just cut their nails while they slept.

Teresa Cypher said...

I was a chicken, lol, went straight for the emery boards ;-) I love your tales about children. In the end, the practical comes through and it always works out. :-)

Scarlett said...

Assume the position.

That's pretty much how it goes in our house, Johanna! *g*

My kids never really put up too much of a fuss when it came to clipping their nails. Though, their participation could have been attributed to my warnings of the creepiness that lurked beneath sandbox fingers! It took only one story of "Just where worms in the tummies end up."

Ew. Gross. *g*