I stood at the counter dicing vegetables and browning hamburger for a Mexican casserole when Camille asked me to cut a large wad of gum out of her hair. I had seen her chewing something but I didn't think to ask her what it was because I was multitasking. There's only so much room in the this brain to manage trifling inquiries, so I sadly neglected to solicit important information.
"I don't buy gum," I said to her, looking up from my mile high pile of green peppers and onions. "Where did you get it?"
"From the cement outside."
I was hoping she was kidding, but her wide eyed expression confirmed that she wasn't it. I worried for a moment that my strict no gum policy rule was working against me. I mean, I know Wrigley's promised double the pleasure and double the fun, but as all parents know, those marketers flat out lied.
(Am I the only child of the 80's that has this commercial and song emblazoned on my memory? Please, tell me I'm not.)
Doublemint has brought the Duggan's nothing but heartache. I've found the sticky stretchy stuff stuck between bed linens, in the washing machine, on my van windows, in children's armpits (not a joke!), on my carpet, and almost anywhere else I don't want to have to deal with it! The result? I don't buy gum (or band-aids) anymore. At all.
Still, for a moment, I wondered if my refusal to allow my children gum had reduced my child to picking gum off the cement and gnawing it like a cow chews cud. Maybe the no-gum rule had created a forbidden fruit mentality? Would my kids grow up with weird oral fixations all because their control freak of a mother said Hubba Bubba was Satan's spawn?
"Do you really have gum in your hair?"
She blinked at me, nodded, and used her chubby hands to lift up blond hair. I put my knife down, walked around the counter and sure enough, there it was--pink Extra glued to the back of her neck and entangled in a huge clump of hair.
"I'm gonna have to cut that out, Camille. It's disgusting. You can't pick up gum from the sidewalk and put it in your mouth!" I said.
"I wanted it. I love gum."
"Do you love disease?"
Her brow furrowed, communicating an unspoken confusion about what I had just said. I pushed thoughts of hepatitis and strep and herpes and all other kinds of horrible infections contracted through saliva out of mind.
"Please," I begged, "please, don't put chewed up gum in your mouth. It can make you VERY sick."
She nodded solemnly, but I didn't feel very confident she understood my pleas.
The next time she was in the shower, I took a pair of scissors and sliced off the chunk of pink paste. We watched wisps of hair wash down the drain and when it was all gone, I reaffirmed my anti-Wrigley's commitment.
And thus ended the great gum debacle.
Or so I thought.
A few days later, I knelt on the church pew in prayer and tried to ignore Christopher whose unintentional kicking kept landing right against my side. When I couldn't take the pummels any longer, I looked over at him and noticed his chomping away on something.
"What's in your mouth?" I leaned over and whispered.
He looked at me, grinned and remained silent. I asked again and he grinned again without answering. On my fifth request for information, I threatened severe consequences.
"Fine," he said, with grave hesitation. "I'll tell you. It's gum."
"Gum?" I hissed. "Where did you get it?"
"From under the pew."