Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Let There Be Germs

Ever wonder how we survived decades before $600 strollers, Baby Einstein, and Itzbeens?
How we ever grew up without BPA-free plastic, organic vegetables, and car seats that were installed by law enforcement personnel?
As my parents recently mused, there's something for everything these days and in some ways things have become more complicated when it comes to caring for a baby.

But this blog post isn't about the extraneous doodads we horde as parents in the 21st century or our obsession with the latest baby trends.
This is about the compulsion to keep our kids germ-free.
And I recently found the perfect doodad to help me... a high chair/shopping cart cover.
I was super psyched about this nifty little invention and couldn't wait to test it out.
As it turns out it was well worth the $30+ I spent on Amazon.
But it's not exactly fool-proof.
The other day at the grocery store Mackenzie and I managed to get through each aisle without her coming into contact with the germy shopping cart once!
And then, upon checkout, the clerk leaned toward the cart ever so sweetly and touched Mackenzie's hand, saying hello in a googoo-gaga voice that made her shriek with delight.
But of course, I was appalled.
Here I was, trying my best to keep my daughter free of any nasty coodies roaming around a public place and the clerk -- the clerk who touches a million items a day and handles countless bills and coins -- goes and screws everything up.
We were barely out the door before I was slathering hand sanitizer all over Mackenzie's fingers.
I started thinking... What's the point?
She put her little paws into her mouth the moment the clerk let go of her index finger.
So how on Earth are we supposed to keep our kids completely clean?
The answer is... we're not.
We're supposed to allow them to come into contact with the outside world -- and all the germs that come with it -- unless we want them living in a bubble the rest of their lives.
And while I don't want Mackenzie licking the floors of public restrooms, I also don't want to be the type of mother who sends her kid to a play date wearing a SARS mask... Because, let's face it... we wouldn't be asked back again!
So I wonder... How does one find the right balance between keeping your kids healthy and allowing them to explore their environment? And is there any truth to the theory that too much caution -- i.e., hosing your 9 month old down with disinfectant -- can hinder a child's ability to build immunity?
For now, I'm thinking I'll go easy on the Lysol... but I'm keeping the shopping cart covered at all times. It gives me peace of mind, even when Mackenzie ends up sucking on the filthy safety strap anyway.

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