Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Germophobe Confessions

Greetings to all you East Coast Musings readers from the Muddy Midwest.

I had to chuckle at Rachel’s post on germs, mainly because I could have written it myself. I adore finding fellow germophobes, partly because true g-phobes seem to be somewhat of a rare breed and mostly because no one else in the world can commiserate about the disgustingness that goes along with kids quite like a g-phobe parent.

Suffice it to say, I was tickled (and sickened) to read about Rachel’s kids and the Port-A-Potty while berry picking. It seems that kids of g-phobes really outdo themselves when it comes to indulging in germ-infested areas. I found myself totally cringing as I read, imagining what I would do had I been in her shoes (shudder).

Antibacterial wipes and gel are staples in my purse and mini-van. My kids and I never drive away from a store without cleaning our hands with a wipe. I adore the fact that most stores now offer wipes for the cart handles (one of the grossest surfaces on earth, in my opinion) just inside the door. So I get a few strange looks; I really don’t care. It’s so much better than touching feces, mucous and other nasty substances.

My kids are older now, so they have pretty much learned to maneuver through life (around me, anyhow) without getting too disgusting. However, the one area we can’t seem to stop butting heads on is money, one of the most germ-riddled items in the universe. My boys, ages 6 and 7, think it one of life’s divine pleasures to dump out and then count their many coins, especially right before bed.

Now I realize that kids don’t get the whole germ thing. I was a kid once, and a typically gross one at that. Most days, I had a dried crust of snot running up my sleeve from wiping my nose on it. I hated baths, only washed my hands when forced and had absolutely no qualms about touching public door handles/toilets/animals and then my own face.


However, I come from a long, proud line of germophobes. Rumor has it that my maternal grandmother refused to kiss my grandfather when they were first married until he rinsed his mouth with Listerine. My paternal grandmother would re-wash socks that fell on the floor in the transition between washer and dryer, until my father, then a child, pointed out that the socks would be on the floor momentarily anyhow. My father insisted that we rinse all dishes thoroughly before washing them because he couldn’t stand the thought of the clean dishes being washed in water with food floating around in it, a habit that has long stuck with me.

My hope is that my children, too, will someday be much more aware of germs than they currently are. Perhaps not quite to the extent of awareness that I possess, but at least so that they’re past the stage of petting the dog, horse and cat and then blissfully eating the snack I sent out without washing up, or dumping their filthy money all over my clean dining room table without a second thought.

And when their own kids produce some of the same unsavory behavior that their parents did (sucking on money; exchanging pacifiers with a complete stranger baby; putting their hands in their mouths after collapsing on the department store bathroom floor), I will laugh as I hand out antibacterial wipes.

Sarah E. Ludwig is a mom of four and a freelance writer based in South Dakota. She blogs most weekdays at Parenting By Trial and Error, has an article coming out in the June issue of Parenting: School Years, writes children’s books that haven’t yet seen the light of day, enjoys infrequent moments of solitude, and plans to hammer out that parenting book proposal by the end of 2010.

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