The rules of farting

Holiday house. Several kids around a table, and me, enjoying a sunny breakfast. Kid opposite does a funny move. He could be lifting a bum cheek off the chair, but I prefer to think not. A delayed scattering of cutlery and children on that side of the table confirms my fleeting suspicion.

‘Excuse me,’ he says nonchalantly, continuing to dribble half the syrup bottle on to this French toast.

‘Did you just fart?’ My incredulity pokes holes in the pong.

‘I said “excuse me”,’ he responds indignantly.

I scrape my chair back and retreat. His mother asks me what’s going on. I tell her. She says ‘But he did say “excuse me”. I always tell them if it slips out, just say excuse me.’

The child is 9. He lifted his ass off the chair for ease of movement. This was no slip.

I realise for the first time in my decade of mothering that gas in children can cause a bit of tension in friendships.

I compiled my own list of rules for farting, just to organise my thoughts around the matter. Here it is:
  1. Until you are about 2, every time you fart, an adult says ‘excuse me’ for you, so that you can get the idea that strange noises from your nethers should be accompanied by polite excuses.
  2. Until you are about 5 or so, strange noises will slip out. That’s fine. ‘Excuse me’ covers all bases.
  3. Between the ages of 5 and 40 (one discovers distressingly), farts can – to a large extent – be subjected to a certain amount of sphincter control. Enough, in any case, to take yourself into some private area where you are all alone and don’t even need to say excuse me to anyone.
  4. You may not fart at the table.
  5. You may not fart in anyone’s bed except your own, if you so choose, and then only if you are alone.
  6. You may not walk into someone else’s space and fart and leave, even if you say excuse me 15 times. Brothers who stealth bomb sisters who are lying on their own beds quietly reading by casually walking in, quietly passing wind and then leaving...those sorts of brothers deserved to be thunked on the head by large coffee-table books.
  7. Adults are unlikely to be partial to farting noises produced by cupped palms in armpits.
  8. Mothers are unlikely to be enamoured of farting stories. Fathers often are. Fathers, if we are honest, are often a great source of such stories. For tips and tricks, anecdotes, jokes and cross-references, please go directly to source.  

Along with asthma-avoidance tactics, recipes for papier-mache and pound cake, policies on smacking and several bottles of arnica tablets, I also, apparently, have rules for farting.

Soon as I get the mothering badge to sew on, I’ll be the head Girl Guide around here. Ta-da.

Have you got family rules for bodily functions like passing gas?

Read more by Karin Schmike
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