When I grew up there was no such thing as hand sanitiser and we didn’t buy bottled water. The more dirty your hands were the more fun it meant you had had, and we drank straight from the hosepipe in the garden. Walking barefoot was the norm and suntan cream wasn’t a prerequisite for outdoors play.
Things are different now. The world has changed, and with it the people in it too. Germs are more resistant now, we even have super germs these days, and the quality of water we drink from our taps isn’t what it used to be, even the sun is harsher with our ozone being depleted. Not only that, but our knowledge as a species has developed, but with what we’ve learnt our lives have also become more restricted.
Over the past decade I have become more aware of picking up germs, and due to this I embraced hand sanitisers and washing my hands as often as I could, even more so when I was pregnant. My little girl then arrived on the scene and I remained very aware of washing blankets that were dropped while out and cleaning toys that were toted about with us. She never had a dummy, so I was never faced with that challenge, and she was breastfed too so bottles weren’t a problem in my life either at that stage.
Yet I was vigilant in trying to prevent as many germs as I could from entering my house. If she went to a playground I would wash her hands when we got home, or insist on clean hands before she put those busy little hands into her mouth to eat. In so doing I found that I had less time to worry about myself, but I still tried to sanitise our hands when we were out and about.
I became more aware of this habit when she started to talk and asked me what I was doing with the hand cleaner. I explained the concept of germs to her, and told her when we got home from being out that we should always wash our hands. This became even more important to me when she started playschool and her baby brother arrived in our home. I now had another little person to protect from as many germs as I could.
As aware as I am of germs and how easy it is for a little kiddie to contract a cold from sharing a toy or a strawberry at teatime with a friend, I’m also wary of making her afraid to get her hands dirty in life and really enjoy what life has to offer. Being a child and getting muddy in the rain or sandy on the beach is one of the best times of our lives, and we must be allowed to enjoy this time. We don’t want to put a fear into our children, and so it is another area that we must strike a balance to teach about washing our hands but not create a concern about getting dirty.
Teaching children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze is also related here. Sometimes Amy will tell me she can’t share my food or drink because she’s got ‘germies.’ Her teacher at school had such a great way of explaining this I thought, she told her that the vitamins we give her daily are like soldiers who fight the germs. So now each morning she happily asks for her soldier, and munches away on her vitamin tablet sound in the knowledge that she’s helping to defeat the bad guys.
As for this mom, she’s happier knowing the soldiers are helping to defeat the bad guys too. But she will still pack a hand sanitiser and a bag of wipes just in case.