I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
May 16, 2011
Like so many first children who’ve come before her, my daughter Punky spent her early childhood in a virtual plastic bubble.
Her hair was combed. Her fingernails were clean. Her hands were sanitized. Her clothing was spotless. My girl baby was germ-free and, fueled by my pediatrician’s warnings, Parents Magazine articles, and television commercials featuring wise-looking, capri-wearing moms armed with Lysol Spray, I went to extraordinary lengths to keep her that way.
Toys were wiped down daily. Children with runny noses were scorned. Hand washings were frequent. Shopping carts and restaurant highchairs were painstakingly double lined with blankets. Yes, I bought into the anti-germ propaganda peddled to anxious first-time moms, because I cared. Obviously.
Of course, seasoned moms can guess the results of all my labor.
Punky got sick anyway.
Quite a lot, actually. Rotavirus, croup, ear infections, flu… She had it all. Oftentimes, more than once.
But I didn’t make the connection. No, when Bruiser was born, I resolved to keep him just as germ-free as his sister. As many of you remember, though, Bruiser was a… well… a more challenging baby than his sister had been. He cried a lot. He slept a little. That meant that much of the germ-killing attention I had planned to shower on him was rerouted to ensuring that both of us simply survived.
(Lest you think I’m exaggerating: Bruiser [and therefore, I] didn’t sleep through the night until he was THREE AND A HALF. That was just six months ago, people. It’s a miracle that I’m not in a sanitarium right now, if you want to know the truth.)
Suffice it to say that Bruiser was a very different child than his sister had been. Where Punky had one meltdown ever in the history of her baby and toddler years, Bruiser had them weekly. Daily. Hourly. My husband and I raised our son during those early years like he was a human hot potato, passing him back and forth, each hoping the other would be holding him when he went off.
Consequently, the kid got away with far more than his sister ever would have. He was an emotional terrorist and we were his sleepless victims. On the rare occasions that we took him shopping, he ran and shouted and we often bit our lips– calling him out would have resulted in screams that would have attracted even more negative attention. And when we went to restaurants, the kid spent most of his time under the table, crawling around in God knows what was down there, and then stuffing his fingers in his mouth.
I watched it happen more than once. Much more than once. Not only that, I let it happen. Why? Because I wanted to finish my Black and Blue Salad in peace, dammit. Was that so much to ask?
And that’s not all.
Over the years, I’ve watched in horror as Bruiser has picked up dirty candy from the ground outside and eaten it. I’ve shuddered to see him sucking on his fingers, just a few minutes after playing in rainwater that had accumulated in the wheelbarrow in our backyard. I held back dry heaves as he scrambled to eat a wet fruit gummy that had rolled under a bench in a government building, held it up to the light so that I could see the scum and dust bunnies hanging off it, and happily popped it into his mouth. And on at least one memorable occasion, I cleaned poo out of his mouth.
It’s not that I didn’t try to prevent these things from happening. It’s that they generally happened so frequently and so fast, there was nothing I could do about it. And at other times, God help me, I chose my battles. Of course I’d prefer Bruiser not lick the wooden blocks in the doctor’s office waiting room, but better the blocks than a toilet seat, right? That’s the power of positive thinking, people. Try it some time.
So with all this germ eating, you’d think Bruiser would have spent his early childhood twice as sick as his spotless sister, right?
Bruiser got sick maybe once or twice a year. Max. Often when he did get sick, he hardly showed any symptoms. He was the first of us to get Swine Flu, for example, but his symptoms were so minor that we didn’t even realize he had it until the rest of us had come down with it. When my husband and I came down with a wicked case of strep throat a few years ago, I had Bruiser tested, just for kicks. It turned out he was the carrier, but he was showing absolutely no signs of strep… so we’d had no idea.
As for all the usual childhood illnesses Punky endured- stomach flu, rotavirus, croup, etc- Bruiser didn’t get a single one.
And while it’s hard for me to admit, I think… I mean, I hate to say it but I think…
All those germs he ate had something to do with it.
So to all the new moms out there with your super-sized bottles of hand sanitizer, your shopping cart seat covers, your gadgets that allow you to conveniently hang your baby on the bathroom stall door while you empty your bladder, I have a little advice for you.
Let them eat dirt. And dust bunnies. And maybe even… poo. As long as it’s their own.
It probably won’t hurt them. It might even help them.
But you didn’t hear that from me.
Image via kaibara87/Flickr
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