It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Kids Are Gross

The first Big Bad Cold of the winter is storming the daycare. Now, colds are colds are colds. Though I have a sick policy, it doesn’t include colds. If a parent stayed home with their child for every cold of those first few years, they’d be out of a job, fast. So. Sniffly, snotty, sneezy, coughy kids can come. (Huh. Three more and I’d have the Seven Dwarves. Hacky, Wheezy, and Whiny, perhaps?)

I have some discretion with this, of course. If there’s a fever of more than a degree or so, they stay home. If the child just isn’t capable of coping with daycare, they stay home. Those, however, are the exceptions. For the most part, they come. Coughing, sniffling and sneezing, they come.

Of the six children who attend throughout the week, let’s see … Rosie, Josh, and Jazz have it, in spades. Grace is snotty, but Grace is so often snotty, poor mite, it’s hard to know if this is the cold, or just the allergies I suspect she must have. (Not so “poor” from Grace’s perspective, mind you: the snottiness doesn’t bother her at all. Though she does routinely — and increasingly — ask to have her nose wiped, Grace, as I was saying to Hannah only yesterday, also views snot as the sixth food group. Mmmmm, salty goodness.) Daniel has it, mildly. And Poppy, bless her hardly immune system, has not succumbed.


But oh, the snot. SNOT. Snot. Snot abounds. This is a cold which inflicts inordinate, extraordinary amounts of snot on its victims. There is a cough, a dry one, but it’s intermittent, and (hallelujah!) is not interfering with their ability to sleep. There’s no sneezing. But the snot?

Good lord.

Gallons of the stuff. Thick, yellow, and copious. How one tiny nose, attached to, one assumes, a set of equally scaled-down sinuses, can produce that much mucous is one of nature’s little mysteries.

Yesterday poor Rosie was the hardest hit. Poor petit, 14-month-old, red-headed Rosie. She took a morning nap yesterday. Rosie does not normally nap in the morning these days, but her fatigue was profound. This thing has, in the words of my grandfather, “really knocked the stuffing right out of her.” She slept for a solid 90 minutes, and when I retrieved her?

Good lord.

Her nose was trailing butter yellow ribbons, viscous and glistening. Her cheeks were shiny with the snot which had dried after she’d smeared it there. Shiny, and, if you pressed into a shiny spot, it actually crackled. I swear. Her eyes were seeping equally yellow goop, and thus her eyelashes were well-crusted. (The eye goop likely the result of irritation caused by the snot she’d rubbed into them.) Her hair! Her delicate wisps of cinnamon-red hair … were stiff and prickly with dried snot. The backs of her hands slimy with the stuff. Ew.

I felt like the Grinch, contemplating Christmas in Whoville: “Oh, the snot! Oh the snot, snot, snot, snot!”

This was going to require a Major Cleaning Operation. Whoop-de-doo.

We all know how year-old(ish) babies love Major Cleaning Operations, particularly of their face. Gah. However, I have a system, and it’s pretty effective. It doesn’t stop the struggling, but it minimizes its effectiveness. Want to know?

Mary’s Method for Cleaning Snotty and Unco-operative Faces

1. Gather supplies. (Warm, wet facecloth and crusted, disgusting child.)
2. Sit down. A nice deep armchair is good, but for particularly writhesome children, you might opt to sit on the floor.
3. Place child on your lap, facing out. Their back is against your tummy. No, you cannot see their whole face, but you know where it is, right? And you know that it is covered, IN ITS ENTIRETY, with snot. So how precise do you need to be, here? You can certainly find the nose by feel.
4. This is the important step. With one hand, grab both the child’s wrists, bend his/her arms up at the elbow, and pin their wrists to their chest. Pull the child tight to your chest.

See? You’ve effectively immobilized them. Their hands are out of action, and they can’t run away, they can’t kick, their torso is trapped. Yes, they can still thrash their head around — and they will!! — but when you are holding the washcloth over their face, that suddenly becomes helpful. They are scrubbing their own face.

Stay calm and get ‘er done. Despite the noise, the child can’t escape, so if you need to hold the cloth to a particularly stubborn spot to soften it up, you can do that.

Now, I don’t torture the kids. I can have that child in my lap, scrubbed over, and down again in less than twenty seconds. I’m after improvement, not perfection. But if you need more time, you’re in a position to take it.


Once in a while, the unexpected does happen. If the child is tall and you are short, BE CAREFUL! I had a client whose son (while sitting on her lap for a story) actually broke her nose when he flung his little self back in a fit of enthusiasm for the excitement of Bob the Builder Digs a Hole. The back of his head made bone-breaking contact with the bridge of her nose. Broken nose and two black eyes, poor woman, inflicted on her by her happy (and solid) toddler.

I am not short. (I am not tall, either, just not short.) Rosie is teeeeny. I was in no danger of that.


Rosie is teeny. Her head is teeny, her torso is teeny.

Her wrists are teeny.

They were also, at the time, snot-smeared and slippery.

You can see where this is leading, can’t you? One teeny, slippery, snot-smeared fist eluded my grasp and flew up. That’s not so bad. So the hand, greased up by snot, slipped out of my grasp. I only needed to grab it again and proceed, right?

Bear with me, my darlings, while I describe the events of the next .0097 seconds. Her hand flew up, as I said. Up and backward over her head. Up and backward over her head and


I felt the cool dampness on my lips. I tasted the salt on my tongue.


Ack. Blerg. Gah. Gross. Ick. Bleah.

Now, we all eat that stuff when we are tiny. I see the bottom side of Grace’s tongue a decent percentage of each day, as her tongue delves into a nostril. Children pick their nose and eat it all. the. time. Because kids are gross. I assume that once upon a time, I too was equally gross. But it has been many, many, many years since I passed that stage. I no longer have the slightest desire to be ingesting my nasal production. In fact, I would be safe to say I have a STRONG AVERSION to it.

And to be ingesting someone’s else’s???

There are not words. For the Grossness. For the Revulsion.

And what does one do, post snot-injection? Gargle with bleach? Or, as one funny friend suggested, “Take off your whole head and boil it”??

Nope. Though the urge is there, and both those options have their appeal, they are, so sadly, untenable. What you do is drop the child, race to the kitchen where you spit madly in your sink, then wipe your tongue with a cloth. If I’d been thinking just a little more clearly, I’d have headed to the bathroom for the Listerine.

And then what you do…

is wait.

What else can you do?


Because I know it’s in me now. Simmering. Percolating. Fighting it out with my T-cells. (Go, T-cells, Go!!!)

And you second-guess yourself. Is my nose runny this morning? Or was that just because of the cold outside when I walked the dogs? Are my eyes itchy? Is that a tickle in my throat?

And you wait.



November 21, 2012 - Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Rosie | , , , ,


  1. We had the same snot-producing cold here. If snot were diamonds, I could retire.

    If snot were diamonds. It is to dream…

    Comment by Hannah | November 21, 2012 | Reply

  2. Ah, yes, the hardy immune system of people working with children…..what will we resist and what will our bodies yield to? My clients/parents are all teachers. One came in for pick up and told of a student that burst out with eye snot after recess. Now both of us have itchy eyes and keep asking anyone if our eyeballs look “pink”!

    It’ll be a day or two before you relax, too, I know. Kids are such little petrie dishes!

    Comment by Kathy | November 21, 2012 | Reply

  3. Oil of oregano, Mary! Really truly! Put a few drops in a small glass of water, and toss it back like a shot. You will smell like pizza but your immune system will thank you for the bacteria-killing help!
    I have never been one to believe in Cold Effects, or any other “cold preventing” meds, but I swear this works.

    After how long of a lag? This happened yesterday, and I wouldn’t be able to get any before this evening, if I bombed out to the local natural foody place right after work. Will it still be any use?

    Comment by Tammy | November 21, 2012 | Reply

    • That stuff is great! It’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Tastes terrible, but I buy it in capsules (undoubtedly more expensive that way, but I figure it’s still way cheaper than a dr visit or Rx).

      Comment by MargieK | November 21, 2012 | Reply

  4. Oh, EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!! Also, Mary, I blame your writing – your tweet about this was “yuck!”, but your more colorful & dramatic post here was almost vomit-worthy! …….I think I have to go look at some LOLCATS now to get the thought out of my mind! 🙂

    Well. Do I say I’m pleased? That hardly seems kind. I guess I’ll stick with “Thanks!” (I may not want to make my readers sick … but it’s nice to know I can??) 😀

    Comment by MsHuisHerself | November 21, 2012 | Reply

  5. That sound absolutely vile, and I sympathise hugely. However, I suspect that if you were going to get the cold from the snot-vileness, you would get it anyway (and I hope very much that you do not!). Germs are crafty critters. I’m on the last day, at least I hope the last day, of a disgusting cold myself and I have been wondering where on earth all the snot comes from…

    Comment by May | November 21, 2012 | Reply

  6. Ahhhhhh!!!!! I’m sorry but I laughed so hard! And felt like scrubbing my tongue. Ew! Ew, ew, ew!

    I love your face-cleaning method, though, so thanks for that. My one-year-old currently has the most copious snot revulsion ever. He soaks his clothing with it. It’s everywhere. And the waking-up-snot-crusted head you described is oh-so familiar right now.

    Oh, and I agree with the Oregano Oil suggestion. Doesn’t matter how far into it you are, that stuff’ll kick it. Take small doses frequently throughout the day so it stays in your system more continuously.

    No apologies for laughing. I was hoping you would. After all, I could mope, I could gag, I could walk around in dread and foreboding, or I could laugh. I’d rather laugh. Laugh while I gag, perhaps, but laugh!

    I’m pleased that the nose-wiping technique could prove useful. I don’t often think I have much to teach the mother of three, not about babies or toddlers at any rate, so that’s rather gratifying.

    Okay, you, Margie and Tammy have convinced me it’s worth a try. I’ll get some Oregano Oil this evening. Thank you!

    Comment by rosie_kate | November 21, 2012 | Reply

  7. I just have to say, I love your blog. I even posted a link to it on my facebook page. I am a working mom of a 5 year old boy and a 2 1/2 year old daughter, and I so totally understand many of the situations you have been in. Your blog regularly makes me laugh, and smile, and appreciate my little wonders even more. Thank you so much for brightening my days!

    Comment by Dk Flygirl | November 30, 2012 | Reply

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