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The stench
Chaos & Contentment
teen girl

Approaching the door, fear begins to rise from my belly. I ask myself, “Do I talk through the door or risk the attack?” 

No. I must be strong and show my face; demonstrate my unrelenting attitude through face to face confrontation. 

“It’s so hard to confront though!” I tell myself. I must not show fear, I must not allow her to win this battle. It could determine the outcome of the war and before I know it, she has taken over the house. What if I eventually fear just walking into the house, much less her room? I know I must be strong and open the door with purpose and strength. Tell her it’s time! Don’t back down and be direct. Formulate a consequence and be ready to enforce! No matter how gut wrenching, be the mother that will not stand for the ongoing, quarantine locking...massive….smell of teenage body odor!! My dearest, sweet flower of a daughter….It’s time for a SHOWER!

These overt puberty characteristics related to physical changes distinguishing a child from an adolescent. New hair in new parts, rougher, more oily skin. Their sweat glands increase production, this contributes to acne and body odor, as S.G Feinstein wrote in “Secrets of the Teenage Brain: Research-Based Strategies for Reaching and Teaching Today’s Adolescents.”

I’m not going to pretend it is easier to be locked up in a house with a teenager more than a toddler. I continue to feel for parents trying to navigate that child development phase during a summer where parks, pools, and museums are closed. Thankfully these areas are opening and a sense of normal excursions outside of a greenway walk or neighborhood bike ride can take place. 

The biggest battle I have with my children is the reality checks they refuse to accept. It is a mental and physical health issue to get up and go for a walk. “We did yesterday!” is usually the defiant justification to refuse. This turns into my resilient explanation of why it is important EVERY DAY. Remarkably, this defense is also used for personal hygiene. “I took a shower yesterday!” Seriously? Honey, you smell again….today. 

Do they not smell themselves? It amazes me that I have to MAKE them shower. My son is going into ninth grade and apparently social graciousness along with attraction to girls have forced him to take a stand regarding his appearance and natural smell. My younger daughter, on the other hand, is still in the, “If they don’t like it, they don’t have to stay near me.” phase.  Using other kids’ opinions and classroom smell etiquette isn’t working quite yet. Especially since a classroom grouping almost seems like a thing of the past. Moving forward and hopefully back in the classroom, they will be sitting farther apart, and I can already see that as part of her arsenal defending her personal need to cherish her odor. 

One of her favorite moves is to lift her arm high above her head, aim her nose toward her underarm and take a big whiff. She follows this with a grin and states, “Smells like freedom to me!” 

It seems like such a petty issue among so much tension and unknowns during the summer of 2020. I guess it helps to explore how to deal with these natural stressors among the unnatural. Young boys and girls go through puberty uniquely and there are different crisis issues I’ve had to work through with them. BO is one of the similar issues and seems to create similar attitudes about it! Sometimes I have to let go and allow a natural phase of personal attention to take place. I plant the seed explaining how chocolate and sugar can be an added culprit to skin problems. Create incentives to go outside to move their body and raise their heart rate. Once they are laughing and happier, point out their mental state. Although I usually get an eye roll, maybe they will notice it for themselves next time. 

That is part of parenting: Knowing when to plant a seed and let go. We can’t control what they decide to think about, however with incentives, consequences, and pressure we can guide them. 

Adolescence is also a time when parenting begins to be an incredibly hard balance. We may have to sit back and let our child find out for themselves how judgmental others can be. This is an opportunity to step in and remind them, others’ opinions don’t define who they choose to be. 

Being a good parent means hugging them when they are down, being there to listen when they are ready to talk, and sitting by them when they need us...regardless of how bad they smell. 

Cristina Emberton was raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and relocated to Savannah for college. She has worked as a production assistant on films, and in marketing commercial and residential real estate. After a divorce and relocation to Bulloch County, Cristina earned her master’s, and discovered a connection to writing. She is now working professionally as a writer. She has two children, and is involved with scouting with them, teaches art for fun, and continues to get outdoors whenever possible.