A few minutes ago a bit of the last forkful of my son’s green beans failed to be broken down into acids and molecules and slipped undigested into his large intestine. There the billions of hungry bacteria sat down to a dinner of their own, finishing the job and sending them off into his bloodstream.
The process resulted in a mixture of methane, hydrogen, and sulfide that was forced downward as pressure and expelled. Right onto the couch cushion beside me. With a rapid and not-so-elegant
I didn’t move my eyes from the book I was reading, didn’t even acknowledge it had happened. And to my son’s credit, he didn’t either. Not at first. He kept right on attacking the buttons on his Nintendo DS, and I let him.
I turned the page and without looking said, “Whatcha say, Bud?”
“Scuse me,” he answered.
I nodded and kept reading, thinking the moment had passed. Which it had, technically speaking. But the aftereffects had not, because then another sound escaped from his other end in the form of a muffled snort.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
I waited an appropriate amount of time—about three paragraphs of my novel—for the required Scuse me, but none came. There was, however, another snort.
And then, Squeak/Snort!
“Scuse me (snort!).”
I sighed and resumed reading. In a span of a few short minutes both noises from both places quieted. I offered myself a satisfied nod. It was a victory. Not a decisive one maybe, but complete enough.
I’m unsure at what point this certain bodily function became the holy grail of hilarity to him, but it did. Nothing in the world makes my son laugh as hard as either hearing it, smelling it, or—most of all—doing it.
He knows all the synonyms—gas, vapors, stinker, breaking wind, cutting the cheese, and the ever popular toot. He peppers them into his speech and has entire conversations about them with his friends. I suspect he even eats certain amounts of certain foods just to perform his own unique standup routine later on. Smellivision, I call it. The finale always seems reserved for the bathtub.
Raising a son is hard. Trying to explain why these antics aren’t what a young man should aspire to is harder.
So I sat him down. Said it’s a normal thing that everyone does, but not the sort of thing people should really be talking about a lot. And really not the sort of thing people should devote elaborate performances to. He nodded and yessir’d me and promised to be better.
And he was. Until bath time. His performance that night was somehow even more spectacular than usual.
Another talk. More parental wisdom. He said at the end, “But everybody does it.”
“But everybody should try not to make a big deal out of it,” I answered.
“I bet Jesus tooted.”
“I bet He did, too. I also bet he said ‘Excuse me’ after and then kept right on healing people and stuff instead of laughing and telling everyone how bad it smelled.”
“Yeah,” he said. “He was really good at that.”
Training a child is not unlike training a dog. It’s a long process that requires a lot of patience and a lot of effort. It’s reward and punishment, a firm hand and a loving one. And it’s also a practice best done knowing that while our children will slip from time to time, we do the very same thing.
Thankfully, he’s gotten better with this. Much better. The normal bodily functions are still functioning, but they’re being done so under the polite cover of modesty and discretion. Even in those times when nature plays its cruel hand and delivers multiple ones right after another—as just happened—he’s bent but not buckled. I’m proud of him. I really am.
Just now he handed me a sheet of paper between games on his DS, courtesy of his teacher. The class would be going on their first ever excursion in a week. To the fire department, no less. I scribbled my name at the bottom, giving my permission for him to attend.
“You’ll have fun,” I told him. “Did your teacher tell you what it’s called when you leave school and go somewhere?”
“Yep,” he said. “It’s a fart trip.”
Pray for me.