Children's Services Council

By: Shana Cooper | April 28, 2010


I have nothing against onion salt. It’s pungent, tasty and lovely on meats. But have you ever tried to get the smell of it out of your home?

Let me forewarn you: It permeates every crevice and pore.

Why, you may be asking yourself, are we talking about onion salt?

Because my son is obsessed with it – along with rock salt, baking soda, ground ginger and any other powder he can find in the spice cabinet. He’s also obsessed with hand sanitizer, hand soap, dishwashing soap, his sister’s detangling spray and any other random liquid or lotion he can pilfer.

His addiction? Experiments.

My 7-year-old is addicted to doing experiments. He’ll mix anything – filling plastic bottles, tiny medicine cups, old apple juice containers and precious Tupperware (with rare matching lids!) with his concoctions. Even my anti-wrinkle cream isn’t safe from his sticky fingers.

He tells me he’s making bug repellant; he’s helping the plants grow; he’s going to get rich on selling his unique perfume – a perfect blend of garlic and crab grass. And he’s so damn proud.

It’s driving me batty. I know I should be encouraging this scientific exploration. I know I should be applauding his creative thinking. But when I see him reaching for the recyclables and secreting spices, I cringe.

You see, being the pedestrian mommy that I am, I can only think about the mess. And, boy, is there a mess. In the bathroom; on the patio furniture; dripping down the driveway. He mixes and messes all over the house. And I’m left to clean it all up.

Yes, I tell him emphatically that when he’s done the house has to look just like it did before he started. Yes, he attempts to follow my instructions.

But he’s 7. And he’s a boy. So as I straighten up the house before bed, I’m often greeted with scrunched up paper towels and mysterious liquids.

Once he mixed baking powder, blue chalk, lemon juice and who-knows-what-else before tightly closing the lid and leaving it outside for days to ferment. When he opened the container, blue fizz exploded all over him and the backyard. Our wooden overhang is still awash in gentle sky colors. (Hopefully this will all pay off in high school chemistry, since he has now learned that mouthwash is a base that effectively de-fizzes whatever tempest he’s got brewing in my teapots.)

But recently, I gained a whole new perspective on my son’s annoying addiction.

His good friend was over our house the other day. The boys were playing so nicely together (Wii-ing and wrestling without need for parental intervention) when my son came to ask if he could do an experiment. I groaned with dread, “Nooo, please don’t make a mess.”

Then the other boy’s mother, a great friend of mine, perked up and asked if they could please do it. Her son – a rough and tumble athletic boy, is afraid to mix outside the box. He gets grossed out with the cafeteria “see food” jokes. He’s not a fan of bodily functions. And she’s slightly concerned.

She wants him to get messy. She wants him to explore with wanton abandon. She wants him to experiment.

So I reluctantly consented. And I’m still finding sticky, suspicious, tightly lidded plastics around the house. But I can rest peacefully knowing that thanks to my son… I’m not the only mommy cleaning up tonight.

Posted In: Show & Tell
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Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County
2300 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach, FL 33426
561-740-7000 or 1-800-331-1462
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