In this family, anytime I am asked to smell something, I proceed with caution.
Usually, it’s Lamar asking me if his cycling jersey is too funky to wear. His queries of Cole have been met in the past with outbursts of tears whilst fleeing.
But the other day, Cole came up to me and said: “Smell me,” as he stuck his tiny little underarm in my face.
My nose immediately recoiled in horror.
“Sweet baby Jesus,” I cried. “What did you roll in?”
“Nothin’,” he declared. “That’s all me, Mama!”
“Eww,” I said. “Then you need to get a shower. Did you not shower yesterday?”
“I did. But I have been playing and worked up a nice funk.”
My child had a funk and he was proud of it.
When did this happen?
Just the other day he was still smelling all cuddly fresh like Downy and Dove soap.
And now, he had that little boy smell that could turn into a bigger boy aroma of stink.
“That’s nothing,” he said, proudly. “Look!”
He leaned closer to me so I could see above his upper lip a light dusting of blonde hair coming in at the corners of his mouth.
“I’m getting a moustache,” he announced. “I had to go trim it back a little while ago.”
“When did this happen?” I asked.
“I am a manly man!” he exclaimed, striking the pose of an Olympian.
A manly man? He was 10!
How could this be?
I still saw my precious baby every time I saw him. But noticed the roundness of his face had been replaced by soft angles. His frame had filled out and grown lanky. And now, he was getting the pre-pubescent hint of peach fuzz and B.O.
“A manly man?” I asked.
“A manly man!” he repeated, throwing his arms into another pose, laughing at his own humor.
“Well, Mr. Manly Man, it may be time you start wearing some deodorant.”
“I don’t have any!” he said, running off to find his father. “Hey, Poppa, smell this!”
He was delighted in his new found odor, continuing to cry “manly man!” at every opportunity.
When night came, that manly man looked at his mama and said, “You still gonna come talk to me until I fall asleep, right?”
I smiled. Of course I would. I wasn’t sure how much longer he would let me do that.
“Mama, do I need to use Poppa’s deodorant?” he asked as he was falling asleep.
“No, you need your own deodorant. That’s personal hygiene stuff and shouldn’t be shared.”
He nodded, his eyes heavy. “Will you take me tomorrow to get some?”
I told him I would. He nodded again.
“Mama,” he began.
“Your baby is growing up…” and he fell asleep.
The next morning, he emerged from his room, and greeted me with a hug. I held him a little bit tighter and longer than normal.
Midway through the hug, I felt his arms give me an extra tight squeeze.
“Can’t you stay my baby just a little bit longer?” I whispered.
He glanced up at me in earnest. “I want to, I really, really do.”
Later that afternoon we went to the store. Lamar had wandered off to aisles unknown so led Cole to the toiletries.
“Let’s get you some deodorant,” I told him.
“You remembered!” he exclaimed.
Of course I remembered.
I also remember how when I was just a little bit older than him, I had wished boys had known about deodorant. So I wanted him to be diligent in his personal care.
I saw his eyes glance at the men’s soaps and body washes. I had just bought him some children’s body wash a few days earlier. Apparently bubble gum scented stuff didn’t cover manly man smells.
“Do you want some new body wash, too?”
“I want some Old Spice body wash,” he said. “It’s manly.”
At least it wasn’t anything made by Axe. I was praying I could steer him away from those noxious products. His manly man funk smelled better than they did.
I put the bottle in the buggy and we turned down the next aisle, which happened to have baby products.
“I used to get your stuff here,” I said more to myself than Cole.
He eyed the body wash with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it. He had outgrown “Cars” but I don’t think anyone outgrows the Turtles. I still like the Turtles.
“Look!” he exclaimed, picking up a bottle shaped like a minion from Despicable Me. “It’s minion body wash!”
“How cute!” I said. And it was banana scented – a welcome change from the bubble gum and nauseating berry-scents.
His eyes glanced to the left, then to the right, before he reached into the buggy and removed the Old Spice bottle. I gave him a quizzical look.
He smiled, replacing it with the bright yellow minion with its’ holographic eye. “Maybe I don’t need to go all manly man all at once,” he said.
The full manly man evolution will happen eventually. But I’m glad he decided to stay a little boy just a little bit longer-for both of us.