-This is a story about germs and my absolutely disgusting youngest child.-
Germs are everywhere.
They are waiting. For you. Waiting to claim your body in an unabashed display of tyranny.
They are frightening and have a knack for being phenomenally inconvenient.
There are people so scarred by recurring illness that they end up marinating in hand sanitizer and letting the terror of catching a bug take hold of their better senses:
The rest of us accept that occasionally falling ill is part of life. Some of us with especially good attitudes and resilience of spirit even see it as an opportunity to read a book or finally finish watching “House”. I once, while prone on the bathroom floor, was able to read an entire romance trilogy in one gut-emptying evening. Half glass full, I say.
And that is how I tromped merrily along, co-existing with all the germs UNTIL:
These little beings popped out of nowhere. Well, we all know where they popped from. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about my vagina.
And now germs meant THIS:
And instead of adopting the fetal position in bed, high on cough syrup with my Kleenex and Hugh Laurie to comfort me, I had to be all alert and motherly and tend to children who couldn’t, for the life of them, master the necessary techniques of being ill. Like breathing through their mouths. Or throwing up IN the dang bucket.
Suddenly my familiar foe morphed into a far more horrible and terrifying beast lurking around every corner, waiting to lay waste to my precious family.
This evolved into a keen paranoia. I began to avoid public places like play grounds and zoos, and be immediately filled with rage if anyone displayed even the slightest symptom of illness in public.
I would preface any invitation or acceptance of an invitation with “Have you or any of your offspring been recently ill?”
And children’s birthday parties?
Oh yes, throwing my kids into a frigid hole of water with 25 other sniveling mini-humans sounds SUPER GREAT, we’ve been wanting to pick up the POX. What’s that? The goodie bags are filled with plastic tops, corn syrup, and the flu? WONDERFUL. Oh yes, by all means shove as much sugar as possible into my thirty-pound child then play party games with so much skin-on-skin action it turns into a veritable kid-orgy. Recreating the perfect environment of a petri dish is always high on my agenda! Why don’t we just speed things along by having the little ones DRIBBLE SPITTLE INTO EACH OTHER’S MOUTHS?
As if that weren’t enough, there’s always that one very special family who says “Oh yes, unfortunately Natalie couldn’t make it. She’s at home puking up bits of lung tissue and shitting blood. But we brought her sister because she seems just fine despite sleeping in the same bed and sharing a toothbrush! Hahahaha!”
I wanted to yell “Do you not fricking understand the words INCUBATION PERIOD?!! Do you not realize how many horrible illnesses are contagious PRIOR to displaying symptoms?!!” And of course we would all find out the next day that un-sick sister of Natalie became so violently ill after the party that they had to go to the ER to have fluids dripped into her veins. That is just fan-freaking-tastic. NO THANK YOU.
But I digress.
Suffice to say that I was disintegrating into a fearful, anxious wreck of a mother who was increasingly limiting the sphere of her children’s world.
Then it happened.
I had taken the wee ones to an outdoor food court and was waiting in line to order when I turned my head and was met with utter HORROR.
The smallest one had chosen to disobey my super sane command of “stand still, do not touch anything, and try not to breathe”. But FAR WORSE THAN THAT, she had been overwhelmed with a compulsion to lay belly down and LICK THE GROUND. To lick the filthy, FILTHY ground on which people, four-legged creatures, and mite-infested pigeons had trod upon. The blackened, oily, gum-plastered, bacteria encrusted ground. To lick this ground with the tongue that lived on the inside of her MOUTH.
I spent the following days prepping barf buckets, putting pedialyte in the freezer, and readying our household for the inevitable appearance of the Bubonic Plague.
Surprisingly, her little two year old system proved hardier that I thought. This was fortunate as the ground-licking was only the first in a series of ghastly actions such as:
But she didn’t get sick. In fact, she seemed to develop the hardiest immune system of us all.
I realized a few things.
One, that my youngest child might be a little jangled in the brain, but more importantly, that my behavior was over-sheltery and neurotic.
While the world may be a swirling cesspool of germs, and children are getting measles in Disneyland, and ebola is flying on airplanes, and you can get bacterial meningitis from a SCRATCH and be brain-dead in two days, it’s impossible to protect ourselves from every little thing.
It’s like playing hide and seek with air. Or a creature with infrared vision. Or a vampire (the kind from “Twilight” because they are especially hardy).
Not only was hiding profoundly ineffective, it also seriously degraded the quality of our lives. What’s the point of not being sick if your life is a sucky, boring, crap-hole, and inactivity is causing your calf muscles to shrivel like old zucchinis? Plus, I read an article proclaiming that children who eat dirt have stronger immune systems, so I’m holding onto that hope. If eating dirt makes one stronger then surely snuggling with trash cans would be even better, right?