It is a great privilege to learn the intimate concerns of children. The last week’s discussion with the Causey kids has centered around the way our body betrays us in the heat of summer in New Orleans. These kids have enough to worry about; being locked out of the house and no one being home when personal issue flare up, like puffy eyes; passing the LEAP on the second go-’round and, lately, the issue is not smellin’ ‘musty’, as they put it.
As adults, we are keen to the battle of combating the summer heat and staying comfortable and presentable in 89 degree heat. However, I have noticed the kids have been having some issues about feeling clean, this, along with their washer being broke at home, the discussion has been pushed my way.
One of the older boys, Mike, came by this week to explain that he was suddenly ‘sponsored’ to go to an amusement park excursion in Dallas, TX with his church. In order to go, he was desperate to have clean clothes for his trip and begged me the let him use the washer and dryer, I graciously obliged. Always cognizant of the dignity issues surrounding such requests, “wash away!”, I said. No pleading necessary. I am more than willing to fold his clothes too, in order that they put on their best face and push their minimum level of presentability to a higher level.
In addition to this incident, I was making my grocery list this week. I put deoderant on the list and Josh piped up to me that he had some deoderant that he didn’t like and apparently someone made a comment that he smelled ‘musty’.
Today, I took him to Rouse’s to show him how to test smell all the deoderants in the aisle so he could get one that suited his personal needs. He got some Axe he liked. On a subtle level, I have noticed in doing their laundry that there exists a shortage of socks, which in summer can lead to naked feet in shoes, leading to more ‘musty’ issues. I brought it up and they said they need more socks really bad. We talked about the comfort of wearing socks in summer and I set them up with some socks I had set aside from my last package of socks. We sort of did a head-to-toe cleanliness inventory of needs too.
Today, this larger discussion coincided with a long bike ride Nick and I took today on the levee. I gave him a choice. Audubon Park . . .or . . . THE LEVEE. He insisted on THE LEVEE. My goal was to show him he was able to make it to the Huey P. Long Bridge which I told him is 14.5 Klicks (kilometers) which is 9 miles. I warned him that it was going to be really, really. Really HOT. He was scared of the dragonflies but got tough with it. When we finally made it to the Huey P. Bridge, we realized he was extra hot because he was wearing TWO T-shirts! So we undid one layer and he was much more confident that we really would be able to make the ride back after that!
Nick loves to cook, and has a natural talent for it. However, he tends to eat more than he needs to because he’s often cooking/eating to entertain himself. Having been noticeably pudgy myself at 10 yrs-old, I am encouraging him to exercise at this early age. He complained about how hard it was but we made it there and back. We talked about the importance of hard workouts for good health. He got a lot of confidence for completing the circuit . . .at 12:30 in the afternoon in July in New Orleans, I told him this was really tough work and he should be proud of himself.
When we got back, both boys were concerned about how they ‘smelled’ before going to the night church services at Victory for 5:45 pm. Nick didn’t have the key to his house today and no one was home to let him in. He really wanted to bathe and change clothes before church.
So I set them up with some socks and a clean t-shirts of mine. The one Nick settled on had a scooped neck. He just wanted a white t-shirt with a ‘crew neck’ and he said it was “outrageous” that he was wearing a scooped neck. And, it was. I should have some more crew necks around. But we have all decided in our open talks that cleanliness comes before fashion.
So Nick took a shower at my house, likely, his first shower ever, from what I could tell, because apparently, they only have a bathtub and he was fine with the clean shirt in the end. I had to tell him how to set up the water temperature in the shower and he enjoyed it.
After getting both boys dressed with some fresh T-shirts and socks and they both applied extra loads of their new deoderant so they could feel very good about themselves about going to their evening church service. It was a profoundly simple and successful day. It’s so easy to make a couple inner-city kids happy and confident about themselves and it was a very good lesson in being a personally approachable type of person.
I recall the awkward moments growing up at that age and the shyness about talking about such personal issues as wearing a bra in eighth grade. My mom was little scared to discuss this with me, since I was the oldest of five kids, so I totally forgive her. But I know it made it hard for me, so I was happy to take that personal experience and it helped me know just how to make these young boys feel confident about discussing their hygiene needs so they could really put their best foot forward.
Little do these kids realize, this topic is covered at length by adults who talk about endlessly about the battle of the sweat in summer as well! I have found that it’s simply a slightly broader discussion with kids compared to the same one between adults about how we battle of the sweat drips between our respective ta-tas, etc in summer.