My son discriminates against people with anything around their mouths.
It doesn’t matter if it is well-groomed facial hair or the better part of a chocolate bar, the mere thought of a milk mustache will upset him and turn into a socially awkward moment.
This has been going on for a couple of years. We’ve traced it back to an incident at McDonald’s.
On that day, we treated the kids to a Happy Meal after church. The kids had a great meal. It was one of those rare times when we didn’t have to tell them to behave or negotiate with them to finish the meal.
It was a joy, which should have been our clue.
After my middle son, who was 3 at the time, was done eating, he spit up… just a little.
“It’s ok, bud,” I said. “Let’s just go to the bathroom.”
But as I picked him up he unleashed a torrent of sickness the likes of which few have ever seen.
The “substance” was everywhere and in no danger of stopping. Our effort to get out of the dining area as quickly and cleanly as possible was thwarted, as his dietary expulsion ricocheted off my chest, leaving a trail of bile and irritated diners in its french-fried wake.
As I rushed him — in what seemed like slow motion — I could hear the responses of other patrons.
“Poor baby, ” someone said.
“Gross,” said another.
“The power of Christ compels you!” said the priest in the last booth.
The McNugget-laden carnage was epic.
Once everything was under control, I got him into the van and tried to figure out what started all of this.
“Are you ok?”
His reply: “You have ketchup in your mustache.”
And so it began.
This kid’s abhorrence of food around someone’s mouth now goes a little like this…
He will spot the offending food around someone’s mouth, set his fork down, and morph his features into a “that’s disgusting” expression. He’ll then raise his right hand and move it in a circular motion pointing at the offender’s mouth and say, “Are you going to do something about that?”
We don’t get invited back to dinner much.
His phobia extends to facial hair, as well. He avoids unshaven kisses at all costs, which is a problem since I am bearded and stubborn. This aversion to anything around the mouth even affects Halloween. Two years ago he refused to wear a fake mustache that came with his Super Mario costume, and this year he firmly said no to his Alvin chipmunk whiskers.
These involuntary responses are not something that we can really punish, but we have tried coaching his reaction. We’ve tried to minimize the, “Oh my lord, I’m going to hurl look,” at the slightest sign of spaghetti sauce on Grandma’s chin. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like a behavior we can immediately change either, although we’re always open to suggestions.
In the meantime, we simply hope that he will forget about the Sunday when we learned how fast-food really doesn’t digest well and that he will one day be able to view my beard with acceptance rather than disgust.
Chris Donnelly is married with three children. You can read him every other Thursday on momaha.com
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