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Sometimes, I just stop and stare at my kids for a moment.

As a parent, I know that every individual’s childhood experience is unique in many ways, but kids the world over obviously share some common ground.

For instance, no matter what language they speak or what country they’re from, one of the first words every toddler learns is “No!”  complete with audible exclamation point.

Mom: “Eat your food.”

Kid: “No!”

Mom: “Wipe your face.”

Kid: “No!

Mom: “Come away from that.”

Kid: “No!”

Dad: “Say, ‘No!’ ”

Kid: “No!”

Yep, that’s about the size of it.

Every kid the world over tries to eat inappropriate objects.  Just go to the neighborhood park on a pretty day and you’ll hear a half-dozen different parents desperately trying to teach their kids what’s edible and what’s not.

Mom: “Johnny, we don’t eat sand!”

Dad: “Dixie, spit that rock out!”

Mom: “Bo, take your shoe out of your mouth!”

Dad: “No, Mary!  We don’t bite people!”

Indeed, because people aren’t part of a proper diet (at least not in most cultures) and you never know where your shoes have been.

As for the sand, rocks, mud, grass, paper scraps, candy wrappers, popsicle sticks, mulch, used tissues, leaves, twigs, Legos, marbles, and other small toys and random objects that children try to ingest, they’d mostly just cause tummy aches and in some cases constipation, but not death or dismemberment, so I wonder if the constant and years-long effort parents put into teaching their kids what to not eat is actually worth it.  Wouldn’t the kids learn that lesson faster if they were allowed to devour that bag of cotton balls like they wanted, and then had to deal with the resultant stomach upset and weird poop?  It would certainly put me off of eating cotton balls.

Kids everywhere have to get toilet-trained.  Somewhere between the ages of two and five, diapers are exchanged for Big Kid Pants.  The process is a messy one.  The process is a stinky one.  The process is altogether gross.

When I was trying to potty train my oldest child I asked myself more than once why, exactly, I had ever wanted to have kids in the first place.  When poop gets tracked across the carpet by one’s smelly progeny, the pitter-patter of little feet doesn’t sound so sweet anymore.  When little fingers get stuffed down the backs of little Pampers and then goopy fingers smear excrement on the wall, bookcase, books, rocking horse, sofa cushions, mini blinds and coffee table, a straight-jacket and padded room starts looking comfy and inviting.  (For the parent, I mean, not the kid.)  When the two-year-old pulls off his stinky Pull-up and leaves it on the floor, and the ten-month-old crawls over and plays with his big brother’s poo as if it’s a nice warm lump of smelly brown Play-Doh (Poo-Doh?) life just doesn’t seem worth living anymore.  At least not until someone else cleans up the mess while Mom and Dad self-medicate with Bourbon or take a quick trip to Barbados.

Aaah, the joys of parenthood . . .