Gum + peanut butter: That’s what kids are made of

There are two recipes that I had always hoped I would never have to use, as a pet-owner or parent: the de-skunking recipe, and the de-gumming recipe. De-skunking—check, about nine years ago (and the crazy thing is, our dog seemed to want to go back for more the next day!). De-gumming—checked it off yesterday.

In my 30-mumble-mumble years of existence, I’ve never once got chewing gum in my hair. I always thought, “C’mon, who does that really happen to, anyway? I mean, you’d have to be really careless, or doing backflips on a trampoline, while chewing gum vigorously and pulling it out with your fingers, in order to get a wad of it stuck in your hair.” Even once I allowed my kids to start chewing gum, I was confident that this wouldn’t happen to my kids.

Apparently, it does happen. To nine-year-olds. Nine-year-olds who don’t tie their hair back, get one strand of it caught in their mouth while chewing, and in a quick, almost panicked state, make the decision that they must extract the strand out of the gum simply by releasing the gum from the mouth, thus allowing said gum to fully embed itself into what is now not one strand, but 4500 strands, of hair. (Insert exasperated parental sigh and a roll of the eyes.)

Luckily for me, my vast and diverse selection of reading material from my childhood allowed me to recall a great little story from the Encyclopedia Brown* tales about how to get gum out of hair: peanut butter. And as soon as the Girl had revealed to me the state of her hair yesterday, she immediately remembered also (with a certain amount of delighted anticipation, I think), that Dwight on The Office had slathered peanut butter on to a colleague’s hair with his hands. “Sure,” I said to the Girl, “As soon as we get home, we’ll get out the jar of peanut butter.”

Now, if you’re going to try this at home with your own gum-infested child, I have one word of advice: Don’t. Not with peanut butter. Especially not with chunky peanut butter. Which I realised, too late as I put the first gloppy spoonful onto her hair, was all that we had. (The crazy thing is, we always buy smooth, but inexplicably last month, for the first time probably since the Girl was born, I asked the kids if they would like to try chunky peanut butter. And here we were, spreading the chunky stuff on, which is so much more of a bother to comb out of hair, than smooth.) Anyway, yes, the greasiness of peanut butter does indeed break down the stickiness of gum. But it’s not your only option, because you know what? Hair conditioner does the job just as well.

Before peanut butter
After peanut butter

Twenty minutes later, sitting beside a child who now smelled sickeningly of peppermint gum, peanut butter, and hair conditioner, I was happy to have finished my task. I could now check this off my “Parenting to-do” list. Now no longer a dog-owner, I don’t worry about having a good supply of tomato sauce in the pantry. But I will be sure to keep on-hand plenty of hair conditioner, and as a back-up, a jar of (smooth) peanut butter.


* For those of us who still love to reminisce about our Encyclopedia Brown days, here’s a really fun list of  The 10 Most Ridiculously Difficult Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries.