Once my kids became teenagers, I didn’t get many chances to sniff babies anymore. For anyone who has ever had kids, you know what I’m talking about. Before kids start smelling like peanut butter and dirt, they smell really good. Just like bubbles and sunshine. Not right after they have spit up or have a stinky diaper, of course. But for those hours (or minutes) in between, after a bath, when they just smell like soap and baby, they are a little bit of olfactory heaven.
Sometimes when you are in the throes of child-rearing, you forget to stop and smell the baby. This is a shame because that good-smelling stage is very fleeting and before you know it, it’s replaced by significantly less-good smelling smells like morning breath and body odor. This is why the first thing you see so many people do when they are passed a baby is to sniff it. A big, deep, nose in the hair, snort.
Although I was happy to see all the members of my extended family for Thanksgiving, I was most excited about holding the new baby. I was way overdue for a good baby sniffing and intended to spend as much time as possible with my new niece in my lap. With a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, my sister-in-law was happy to share the baby wealth and get a break while the rest of us took turns holding and sniffing her kids.
“OK, who wants the baby,” she asked holding the baby out for takers.
My other sister-in-law and I both grabbed for the baby. She went for the foot and got a sock. I went for the under-the-arms grab and got the whole baby. I plunked her down in my lap and immediately stuck my nose in her cheek.
I inhaled deeply. “Ummm, baby!” I exclaimed
“What did you expect her to smell like? Dog?” asked my teenage son.
I gave him a stink eye.
“Babies smell good. You used to smell good when you were a baby,” I retorted.
“I still smell good,” he argued.
“No, now you smell like boy. Teenage boy. It’s a combination of dirty socks and too much body spray. That smell is only appealing to teenage girls and video game manufacturers.”
He glared at me.
“Well, it’s better than you what you smelled like a couple of years ago,” I added.
“What was that?”
“Frog slime and pizza grease.”
“What’s wrong with that?” he wondered.
“Nothing. If you are a 10-year-old boy or a professional frog wrangler.” I jiggled the baby on my knee and inhaled her cheeks again.
“How about her?” my son asked, nodding to his sister.
“She smells like teenage girl. Slightly better than you in a cherry lip gloss, bubblegum shampoo, strawberry-scented body lotion kind of way.”
He grimaced. “Who likes that smell?”
“Other teenage girls, I suppose. And bees,” I paused. “But nothing beats the baby smell.”
He looked doubtful.
“Here. Try it,” I insisted, handing the baby over to him.
He reached out to take her, but just as she passed from my hands to his, a huge, earth-shattering, nose-singeing explosion emanated from the direction of her diaper. He stopped, frozen, with the stinky baby in mid-air, and looked around helplessly.
“OK. You might not want to sniff her right now.” I commented.
“What do I do?” he asked in a panic.
“Well see, this is the best part about sniffing someone else’s baby,” I said calmly, taking the baby from him.
“When they don’t smell so good anymore, you give them back to their mother.”
This is a repeated Lost in Suburbia column, which has appeared in GateHouse Media newspapers since 2008. As Tracy Beckerman’s main column is shifting focus - her kids are grown and she has moved back to the city - we are rerunning her earlier work for readers who may have missed these the first time around. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tracybeckerman.