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It’s What Kids Do

“What’s the difference between broccoli and boogers?” Carol asked. 

            Color.   One is yucky.  Well, some people think both are yucky. 

            Carol smiled and her eyes glistened.  “First graders don’t eat broccoli.” Having taught first grade for 25 years, my friend is an authority on six-year-olds.   

            Stop reading now if you don’t want to read about boogers and kids picking their noses and then sticking their fingers in their mouths.  For the past three winters, I’ve moved a post-it note with this topic from one year to the next.  Carol’s riddle prompted me that now is the time.

            Why write about such a topic?  It’s life.  It’s what kids do. Honestly, anyone around toddlers and young children see little fingers in little noses, and if you’re like me, you hope the fingers are wiped on shirts. If you know the children well, you say, “Don’t put your finger in your nose,” then hand out tissues or gently touch hands, not fingers, and move the hands away from faces.

             I’ve said, “Do you need a Kleenex?” Such a silly question.  By the time I ask, the finger has retrieved whatever was in the nose.  I’ve even explained that what’s in the nose isn’t clean, that nose hairs catch dirt and dust and bacteria and that boogers are dirty.  That satisfies my need to teach, but rarely does the kid respond as a learner.

            Nose picking is universal – about 120,000,000 results popped up when I googled why do kids pick their noses.   There were 260,000 results when for why kids eat boogers and 14,7000,00 sites are available to explain how to stop nose picking. 

            Kids usually stick their fingers in their noses because there is something uncomfortable inside their nasal passages and they want to get it out.  Very young children may be exploring their bodies, and for some kids, it’s a nervous habit, an unconscious habit.  

            Kids eat boogers because they are salty, unlike broccoli, and fingers slip so easily from noses to mouths, and again, it becomes a habit.   

            So, what’s the big problem?  In every country, a finger up a nose is taboo – it’s socially unacceptable everywhere.  From a health standpoint, when excess moisture or dry nasal mucus (a more clinical word than boogers) is removed, nasal passages are more receptable to bacteria which causes infection, and nose-picking can cause nosebleeds.

            Supposedly, the best way to stop this habit is to remind children to stop.  To explain the health aspects if the child is old enough to understand.  To keep tissues available and praise children when tissues are used. 

       While researching this topic, I discovered children’s books I’d like to read:  The Boy Who Picked His Nose, Maggie McNair Get Your Finger Out of There!, and  Fairytales Gone Wrong:  Don’t Pick Your Nose, Pinocciho!

            Now is a perfect time to drink hot chocolate and read one of these books to my first grade Grand.  He’ll use a tissue and I’ll insist he wash his hands before lunchtime and I won’t serve broccoli.   

           

 

           

Fingers and Noses

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 8.11.19 AMWhat is it about a kid’s finger and his nose? Evidently, an invisible magnet on the end of a child’s pointer finger attracts metal hidden deep inside that child’s nose. If this vision is repulsive, stop reading now. I understand. I don’t like it either. But not so long ago, Husband and I and two of our Grands laughed hard about fingers in noses, and then I thought of all the nose-pickers I’ve known.

My Grand looked downright cute wearing Husband’s TTU baseball cap. The cap bill slung low to one side and my Grand cocked his head. A perfectly innocent pose to capture on my camera phone. Click. I held the phone in front of Husband, “Look at this cute guy. I’m sending it to his mom.”

“With his finger up his nose?” Husband said and burst out laughing. My Grand’s finger was really close to – not up – his nose. But Husband’s comment gave my Grand and his younger sister, who stood beside him, an idea.

“Take another one!” my Grand said and he stuck his pointer finger second-knuckle deep inside his nose. “Me, too!” his sister said. She matched his pose. Their heads bumped against each other as they laughed. Husband’s laugh was a snort.

My two cute Grands. Wide open eyes. Mouths open. Laughing. With their fingers up their noses. I laughed so hard I could barely steady my phone for a picture. And yes, I sent it to their mother. Thankfully, she saw the humor in her children’s exaggerated poses.

As an elementary school teacher, I had at least one student in most every class who was a nose-picker, and I was always sure I could teach that child to stop. And it wasn’t just boys. Princess-like little girls dig for nasal treasures, too. I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve told a kid to take his finger out of his nose.

At the beginning of the school year, I’d whisper in the child’s ear, “Take your finger out of your nose, please.” He (again, he could be a she) would duck his head and scrunch his exploring finger with his other fingers into a fist. By December, I’d stand in front of my entire class and say silly things such as, “So let’s review the steps of division, finger–nose. Divide, multiply, subtract, finger-nose, bring down.” The nose digger would slide his nose-picking finger over his lips, down his chin, along his neck, across his shirt, and rest it on his math paper.

By springtime, I’d give the culprit a wide-eyed stare and point my finger high in the air as I continued reading aloud about the adventures of Charlotte the spider trying to save Wilbur the pig. By then, nose digger simply rested his finger on his neck for a few seconds and then the metal inside his nose claimed the magnet on his finger.

Thinking back over my decades of teaching, I didn’t convince a single child to keep his finger out of his nose. I should’ve announced on the first day of each school year, “Give me a nickel every day you want to put your finger up your nose, and I won’t try to make you stop.”

I could’ve retired years earlier. And laughed all the way to the bank.

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