|Thank you, Old Spice.|
Does your ADHD child struggle with hygiene? Does he forget to brush his teeth for days on end unless you stand and watch him? Does she overlook the necessity of a shower without the aid of a cattle prod to get her in the bathroom? If so, I’m sure you have experienced some moments of…frustration…over personal cleanliness. And over many other issues, too.
At our house, the (complete lack of) hygiene habits of our ADHD son Clark merely caused teeth-grinding, until he turned 13. Truth be told, all of our kids hated soap, water, and toothpaste. The smell of our daughter Susanne’s feet was legendary; Liz’s hair was in a state of dreadlocks for three years because she refused to brush it. But the issues of the other neuro-typical kids resolved themselves naturally when they hit puberty.
Clark hit 13 and nothing changed.
Well, nothing changed in terms of his absolute inability to remember that each and every morning of his life he was to use deodorant (as of about the age of 12), wash his face, and brush his teeth. That stayed the same. Our morning conversations before leaving for school still sounded like this:
Clark: I’m ready to go.
Me: Have you brushed your teeth?
Me: Please go back upstairs and brush your teeth and take care of your *all* your personal hygiene needs.
5 minutes later…
C: I’m ready to go.
Me: Did you put on deodorant?
Me: Go back upstairs, again, and put on deodorate and TAKE CARE OF YOUR *ALL* YOUR PERSONAL HYGIENE NEEDS.
5 minutes later…
C: I’m ready to go.
Me: NOT IF YOU HAVEN’T WASHED YOUR FACE. TELL ME YOU WASHED YOUR FACE. PLEASE, DID YOU WASH YOUR FACE?
Note that we always try very hard to help, but we do not do all the thinking for him, despite how much more challenging it makes our lives. Thank you, years of counseling. We had a morning checklist in his room for years, but by middle school it was just part of the wallpaper to my son.
So, now, Clark was in middle school, he was 13, and his hormones had kicked in. By telling you that his hormones had kicked in, you might think I mean that he had developed an interest in girls. Why, yes, he had. But what I’m really telling you is that he had started to smell like rotten beef within five minutes of showering sans application of mass quantities of extra strength deodorant. In fact, he smelled so bad that sometimes I had to roll down the car window and stick my head outside to keep from gagging. Really.
The unique odor of stinky teenage boy is well known to all parents of pubescent males. Our older son smelled worse during puberty, but it wasn’t usually an issue, because he didn’t want to smell bad around girls, so he showered, used deodorant, and heaped on mass quantities of cheap cologne. He was neuro-typical. However, with our ADHD son, from the ages of 13-15, the problem was chronic — daily — and it was life altering. If we weren’t standing outside the bathroom door as he exited the shower, then we could not stop the inevitable impact those hormones would have on him, and us. Poor kid. Poor mom! Many are the times I sent him back to the shower for a do-over.
It’s hard to advise parents of teenagers similar to mine how to cope with this issue. We had Old Spice Pro Strength stashed in every room of the house for emergency applications. That didn’t even work all the time. He had a girlfriend, but she didn’t seem to provide the bump he needed either. I don’t know how the poor girl was able to stand it, bless her sweet, beautiful heart.
The good news is that they grow out of it. Clark is now 16 (and 6’1″) and the stench has magically lessened. Not because of markedly better hygiene — although it is marginally better as he matures and remembers his meds — but because the worst of the hormones are behind him.
So my best advice, other than shipping them to a year-round cold weather climate? Purchase a gas mask.
And know that this too shall pass.
Until next time,
Pamela aka Clark’s Mom