When my eldest child turned four, she became a terribly picky eater. The various items on her plate couldn’t touch (God forbid), and how dare I try to feed her something green, except for trees (broccoli) and her new favorite food group – boogers.
She’s going to kill me for writing this when she’s finally old enough to read and be mortified. Oh well.
Yep, although my child lacks in food creativity, she has gained preschooler “street cred” by joining the ranks of booger eaters everywhere.
And now that it is allergy season, forget the chicken nuggets. These nose nuggets are being served up at least three times a day.
In her defense, she is not alone. Did you know that 90 percent of people admit to picking and at least 10 percent of adults admit to noshing on nose nuggets regularly? These numbers are believed to be much higher among children. You don’t believe me? Ok, have you not ever looked out the window of your vehicle while parked at a stoplight to see the guy next to you mining away at his nasal passages? Yes, the car is where I first noticed this distasteful trend that my daughter has picked up.
One day while running errands, I could suddenly hear the lyrics to the song on the radio. An actual song. When your child goes silent, you know its either because the sandman came to visit or it’s trouble. When I cranked my head around the seat, I was surprised to see her gently coaxing out a strand of slime. Careful not to break it, she watched it glisten in the sun. Her fingertips tapped, and the goo rebounded. She rolled it between her pointer finger and thumb, watching with such intensity. And then … SHE ATE IT.
“Lorelei!” I yodeled. She snapped out of her trance and gave me a smirk. “What are you doing?! Did I just see you eat a booger? Why???”
“Mommy, it’s delicious,” she said, smiling.
The banter continued, me telling her that she should not pick her nose and she should definitely not eat boogers, and each time the word “booger” was said, riotous laughter erupted. By the way, the word “booger” is cousin to the word “fart.” You can’t expect to utter these words in a conversation if you actually care to finish your sentence. Anyway, many b-words later, she continued to defy me, digging deeper, pulling out more mucous morsels, licking her fingers and smacking her lips.
While hurtling down the expressway at 70 miles an hour, you will not win an argument with a four year old. So I let it go. Fine, eat those boogers. See if I care! But it got me thinking, is eating boogers bad for you? Is this really something I should be alarmed about? Or is she just being a kid?
Here’s what I learned
There’s really no inherent benefit or risk to ingesting your own snot; it’s just a generally unacceptable public practice, considered immature and childish. Kids do it because boogers can be uncomfortable, or maybe they are just bored. Some scientists suggest that evolution primes us to eat snot. “Today’s society,” says Scott Napper, an associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, “is too clean with all of its antibacterial soaps and moms armed with wads of wipeys.” His “hygiene hypothesis” means that booger eating builds immunity — kinda like dirt, or a flu shot. Boogers also have a sugary taste, too, luring people to swallow rather than wipe sniffles away. Other super serious scientists say we humans ingest mucous daily when we cough (anatomy lesson: your nasal passages connect to your throat), so even if you don’t purposefully eat them, you eat them anyway. YUM?
No scientist to my knowledge has ever studied whether consuming “mocos” is a learned behavior, but I have my own hypothesis.
You see, when I told my mom I was researching boogers, she just laughed and recalled my childhood “booger wall.” I didn’t eat them, I promise, but I had quite the collection! Golden sculptures clinging to the sheet rock. While my Jackson Pollock inspired smears are long gone, I believe I — I mean we — as the highly sophisticated society that we are, still subconsciously dig for gold, teaching our kids that this kind of behavior is okay. Ask yourself, how many times a day does your finger gingerly pick at your nose? Do you even realize if you’re doing it? Are you thinking about giving ’em a taste right now? Just kidding. Don’t. Just don’t.
We can’t take our kids grossness too seriously. In fact, we can’t take our kids too seriously, period. They are kids after all. They are little booger eaters who think farts are funny and snot is art. They will (probably) grow out of it. It’s too easy these days to get bent out of shape about little things that we’ll look back on and just find plain funny.
So relax — Today, if your child snubs her nose at traditional food groups, but considers her nose a group of food, don’t be alarmed and know that it’s safe, perhaps healthy, and she probably learned it from watching you.