Thursday, January 21, 2010


Westley was using/attempting to use/playing with the drinking fountain at the community center on Tuesday when a woman and her four girls came up behind us. I gently moved Westley aside, and one of the middle-sized girls stepped up to take a drink.

"Ah-ah!" Her mother pulled her back a little more forcefully than I thought necessary, and whipped out an empty water bottle. As the mom filled the bottle from the drinking fountain, she told the girls sweetly, "I don't want you drinking from that. It has...uh, there's germs."

Germs? Oh, right. Germs.

In one of my daily moments of complete parental insecurity I wonder if this perfect blonde woman with her perfect blonde children is quietly judging me for letting my son put his hands all over the germs on the community center drinking fountain. (Or is she referring to his germs, which he must have left behind so thoughtlessly?)

Then I realize that I don't give a fuck what she thinks of me and my germy son. Because germs are totally not a big deal to me.

I do not get the whole "germs" thing. I remember being a child and being totally baffled by the idea of germs. They made no sense. They were as incomprehensible as the idea that Jesus--this man who'd lived thousands of years ago and whom I'd never met--loved me. Germs seemed like mysterious adult-talk used to get children to behave. And while I generally trusted the adults in my life to tell me the truth, part of me didn't buy the "germ" thing.

I was also not easily grossed out as a child. I'm still not. I certainly understood "dirty," but only if I could see the dirt. The idea of "other people's germs" held no power over me whatsoever.

So I haven't mentioned germs to Westley. And not only do I not worry about them, I don't even think about them, honestly. I wash my hands (sometimes), and I don't let Westley play with anything that may have been in or near the litter box. But that's about it.

Admittedly, I get to avoid the whole germ issue, if I want to. I'm lucky that way. No one in my household has a compromised immune system. I also don't judge anyone for citing "germs" as a reason not to put that thing you found on the ground in your mouth. However, in the absence of serious disease, talking about germs with a two-year-old just seems like borrowing fear. Any information Westley might have osmosed about "germs" comes with the fictional backdrop of Yo Gabba Gabba. There, germs are "tiny, ugly" creatures that appear on food once it's dropped and sing in germ-an accents. And for now, I'm fine leaving it at that.

Of course, I eat dropped food all the time. (Sometimes I even give it to my kid.) Just last night I put my hands all over a grocery store shopping cart without using one of the store's provided antibacterial cart-wipes first. And I set my peeled tangerine down on a very public counter top in the food court area.

It's probably just a coincidence that I have a little bit of a sore throat and a stuffy nose today.



joanna said...

we don't fret about germs at all, either. and you know what? he's never had more than a runny nose, in two years of life. i feel pretty confident that those two things are related. building up the immune system is important. also, actually living in the world rather than perpetually protecting yourself from it is good role modeling. high five, mama.

candace said...

Who cares about germs, we don't, and we live in NYC - yuck!

Amber, The Unlikely Mama said...

"I don't let Westley play with anything that may have been in or near the litter box. But that's about it. "

This made me giggle :-)

The Beckster said...

I completely completely agree with you! Wiping off a grocery cart or a water faucet seems so laughable to me. The world has germs! It helps your immune system to be exposed to them. The world is scary, germs are the least of our worries!

Thomasin said...

We have cats and dogs. When we visit others' homes and their dog picks up one of my daughter's toys and carries it around our hosts are always horrified and "Quick!" run to rinse it off under the faucet before giving it back. Hah! If only they know that she's cultivated a taste for dog spit, cat fur, and routinely lets the pups lick her bagel to get it to the right amount of moistness before eating it.

Not that I *encourage* all that, but, hey, this is the real world in which dirt and dogs exist. It's going to happen, and I'm not going to try and sanitize her world by rinsing every freakin' thing off or dousing her in anti-bacterial anything when we are out and about town. That's as unhealthy as playing in the litter box.

So, high-five from another non-germiphobe!