The Zen of Snot
By Jennifer Ismail

When I was young, naïve, and childless, I used to look at toddlers with runny noses and wonder why someone didn't DO something about it. It looked so awful and so messy. Yuck.

Now that I have a toddler of my own, I understand.

My 15-month-old daughter wants nothing to do with me or anyone else touching her nose. She'll put up with having her face washed off after dinner, sometimes. But when she recently developed a runny nose as the result of a cold, I saw what sort of resistance she was really capable of.

It started out with her just waving my hands away and turning her head. Before long, she was struggling and crying. The mere sound of me pulling the tissue from the box was enough to set off the tears. If I managed to get close enough to her face to wipe away the accumulation on her upper lip, the crying provided a fresh supply.

Heaven forbid that I should take out the nasal aspirator, a.k.a. the dreaded snot-sucker. I only attempted to use it once when it looked as if she could use the assistance. I know I would have appreciated the help had I been in her shoes. She didn't see it that way. The way she carried on, you would have thought I was trying to cut off her foot with a bread knife. I'm surprised no one called the police to investigate the piercing screams.

When I reported my trouble to other more experienced moms, I was given several suggestions. Use petroleum jelly on her upper lip and nose to keep it from chapping. Try a warm washcloth instead of a tissue. Use a humidifier to ease congestion. Sneak up from behind her and just get the job done as quickly as you can.

I tried all of the above suggestions and it never got any easier. I even resorted to just whisking it off with my own finger a time or two. That, of course, was my least favorite option but the one she objected to least.

I'm working hard on developing the Zen-like attitude of other veteran moms. Just let it go, leave it be. It'll all come out in its own time -- literally. There are more important battles to be fought. Like I said, I'm trying hard, but her cold cleared up before I completely achieved the tranquil calm I was seeking. I'm not sure I'll be able to maintain my cool in the face of her snot the next time around.

The irony is, of course, now that her cold is gone, she holds the tissue up to her face and pretends to blow. Sigh...

Jennifer Ismail is a stay at home mom and freelancer who enjoys writing lighthearted essays from her personal experiences. Her work has appeared in her local paper as well as several parenting sites. She can be contacted at


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