Monday, March 9, 2015

The Licking Phase of Toddlerhood

Kids go through many gross phases. They eat their boogers and scratch their butts and engage in all sorts of other similiarly distasteful habits frowned upon by medical professionals.

Terza is going through one of my least favorite phases yet.

The Licking phase.

Not to be confused with the Mouthing phase, which happens much earlier, well under a year of age. I find the Mouthing phase gross, naturally, but I don't fault the kids for it; after all, at 8 months old, they can't talk or walk or do anything really, except put stuff in their mouths. If the choice was Suck On a Slipper or Do Absolurtely Nothing, I'd suck on the slipper every time.

No, the Licking phase comes much later, and is -- at least from what I've observed -- much more about testing limits and getting a reaction than actually exploring the world around them. I have far less patience for this phase since at nearly 3, Terza can do most of the things I can do. She can pick out her own outfit, put it on, look in a mirror, decide she doesn't like it and change again. That alone, could occupy you for the better part of a day. There's just no need to lick things.

It wouldn't be so mortally revolting if Terza licked toys or plates or even clothes. The child licks surfaces. Walls. Counters. Floors. FLOORS.

But because she's my third, I retain a decent amount of composure about it all. After all, I remember, clear as day, when Seconda at this age, was riding the R train and I caught her extending her tongue to the lick the subway pole. That instantly became my new benchmark for Grossest Things to Lick.

A few weeks ago, though, a new benchmark was created. Over winter break, we took the kids to a cheap hotel near the Philly airport, one with a swimming pool in which we could fritter away many long, cold hours. When we got to the hotel, it was pretty shabby, shabbier even than we expected. It was the sort of place you check for bedbugs twice. The chain lock on the hotel door was broken, probably the result of a drug deal gone awry. Half of the electrical outlets didn't work. I voted we go home - our home was just as dirty but at least it was our own dirt and it was free. But we couldn't get our money back and the children, David pointed out, were delighted. They didn't mind the squalor -- they never do. And there was a pool!

If the hotel room was dirty, you can imagine what the pool area was like. On the evening we arrived, I asked what time the pool closed and the woman at the front desk informed me it was closed early because there'd been an "incident" and it needed to be cleaned. I was tempted to ask which manner of bodily fluids we were talking about but I decided it was better not knowing.

So the next morning, when we headed down to the pool, I wished we'd brought full scuba gear and possibly a acquatic Hazmat suit. That the pool was packed with kids did not make it more appealing or less gross. My own kids blithely jumped into the pool which was approximately 20 degrees.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The pool was not only grimy but freezing and the hot tub . . . is there a nice way to say cess pool?

However, I am an intrepid woman and also, a strong believer in getting your money's worth, even if that will eventually require a long course of antibiotics. So I plunged into the hot tub tried to enjoy it.

I took Terza in the hot tub with me because she's too young to tolerate hypothermia. But after a few minutes she got bored, and climbed out of the hot tub, sitting on the edge with her feet in the water. If it was difficult to relax in the fungal hot tub, it was even harder to relax while watching my toddler walk around the slippery edge.

"Sit down," I told her. "You're going to fall."

So she did. Well, she didn't so much sit and drop down on all fours.

And then, as I watched, she lowered her head to the filthy puddle of water next to the hot-tub-cess-pool and stuck her tongue in it.

You know that slow-mo moment where you cry out in horror but it is too late because the damage is done? Yep, that about sums it up.

The good news is we got our money's worth. The bad news is, it's our money's worth of bacteria.

Can't wait for this phase to be over . . .