Snot on a parent’s shoulders should be worn as a badge of honour | Séamas O’Reilly | Life and style



On those rare occasions when I do leave the house for social interactions, I’ve been bringing little mementos from home with me. Having sat down for a drink or the first bite of a nice meal, my conversational partner will point at my clothes and ask, innocently, what ‘that’ is. I don’t have to look as the answer is always the same. That silvery snail trail on my shoulder is not hair gel or fallen rain, it is the snot of my sputum-rich son.

This is my life now; territorially marked by a baby who produces snot as if he’s stockpiling for Brexit. I’m sure I could get loads of laughs by here describing the horror of each variety, from crunchy dust to oleaginous slime. I could sing winsome country ballads about the mess of thin, clear gel which seeps like fig jam, if it were secreted by a hagfish. Then there’s the emerald sawdust that sets into his face, congealing into a hard film on contact. Removing this is like scraping a bowl of cornflakes you neglected at breakfast, requiring you to place one foot on the highchair for greater purchase as you chisel it off. I could even shock and delight you with a grotesque dissertation on all the many and varied things he does with all this snot once he gets his hands on it. Luckily, I find the topic so distasteful I’ll refrain from such detail.

Worse, he guards the stuff as if it’s spun from gold, the way a rare bird guards her eggs, the way sunglasses-wearing dads on Twitter guard the idea of a white, male James Bond.

Once, by a pool in Croatia, I saw a woman locking away a pair of those trainers that have the individual toes at the end. I had never seen someone so confident in the value of something so disgusting, until I started spending a lot of time with the mucus-producing waif who now shares my home.

My entire life is spent assaulting him with cloths or wipes, which so horrifies him that the combination of his wee square head and comically upside down mouth, gives him an uncanny resemblance to a crying Lego man. The look on his face is not just one of displeasure, but of betrayal. It’s a look you’d give a friend if you arrived to meet her for a drink and discovered she’d invited three friends from her job without telling you.

This hurt is a recurring theme with parenting, and the source of a strange, churlishness I feel developing inside me. I don’t mind doing all this stuff for no thanks – for truly I am one of God’s most selfless martyrs – but to actually feel he may be forming a dislike for me based on the things I’m doing for him? That seems a tad unfair. How do I know this torture isn’t, for him, some foundational agony that will traumatise him forever? I suppose I don’t, but there’s nothing else for it. The wipings shall continue until morale improves. At least l’ll always give him a shoulder to cry on after.

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