Maybe it's because children live closer to the ground. Maybe it's because they're both naturally curious and fearless. Or maybe it's because they have active imaginations. But kids willingly do the most disgusting things. For instance, my daughter was sick for three days after drinking from a mud puddle that she called the "Fountain of Youth" (just what a 5-year-old needs). Chances are, your child has picked up, and possibly even put in his mouth, some similarly disturbing things.
I wish I could say I've had only one or two gross encounters, but the fact is, my child is thoroughly repulsive. Even at 12, these habits haven't completely died out, although given the germ-ridden things she's touched, I'm surprised she's lived so long.
Here are the top five gross things my kids have put in their mouths. Sound familiar?
Coins by nature aren't necessarily disgusting, although they are dirty. It's where she finds them: sidewalk cracks drenched in unidentifiable fluids, unswept floors under vending machines, dingy crevices of grocery checkouts. There are a miraculous number of coins in port-a-potties and bathrooms in fast-food joints and airports. One time, my daughter held up traffic in Times Square by using her fingernails to try to pry a penny out of melted crosswalk pavement, while I yanked on her arm and crabby taxis honked. That said, the kid has collected about $200, which might pay for about a 100th of her medical bill from the disease she gets.
2. Things from people's mouths
She has picked up so many cigarette butts that I'm tempted to buy her her own pack just so she can rip it apart and put it under a microscope. She also goes for wads of gum and other candy remainders: lollipop sticks, wrappers, strings from candy necklaces, rings from sucked-out pops. Then there is the discarded food: french fries, fruit pits and peels, nut shells, crumbs from baked goods. And let's not forget the used utensils, paper plates and cups.
My daughter will touch any bug, alive or dead, ugly, stinky or just plain disgusting. Fortunately, she has studied bugs extensively and, for the most part, knows which ones are lethal. She has collected caterpillars, bees, silverfish, cockroaches, flies, cicadas, spiders, butterflies, aphids, ants, ladybugs, crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, stinkbugs, fireflies, moths, katydids and millipedes. I buy jarred fruit mostly for the jars, in which she keeps her bugs labeled and up in her attic room (where else would you put a kid like this?), which honestly looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie.
4. Various animal parts
We take a lot of nature walks. Unfortunately for me, she really does see things most people don't. For instance, she noticed when I stepped on a baby snake. She finds bones, teeth, hair, feathers, shed skin, egg shells, claws, owl pellets, cocoons and lizard tails. These also go up in the attic, labeled and in jars along with the bugs.
This is not labeled and in a jar. She found this in a parking lot. I slapped this out of her hand before she could thoroughly inspect it, shoved her back in the car with the swiftness of a mob boss, and made her hold her arm out the window while I drove home at a felonious speed. Then I gave her a Silkwood shower while she wailed and demanded to know what was going on. How do you explain a used condom to a 4-year-old? I don't know. But I'm sure it was the cleanest she's ever been.