Thursday, April 15, 2004

A little worm never hurt anybody

I think I may have failed some sort of Good Hygeine Mom test this morning. Let me describe the sequence of events to you, and then tell me what you would have done:

Imagine you're late getting your child to school, as usual. You send him out to get in the car while you race around making beds and tossing breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. When you finally get outside and lock the door, you see that the boy is not inside the car (big surprise!) but standing by a pile of dirt that he often plays in, because you are a bad mother who will let her child play in a pile of dirt if he'll just allow you to sit and read a book or, I don't know, breathe for a minute. With a big smile, he tells you, "Mom, guess what I found in the driveway? A worm!"

You look in the driveway. No worm. You look at the boy standing proudly by the pile of dirt. And you ask, wearily and warily, "Did you touch a worm?"

And he reassures you. "It's okay. The worm was dead."

Time is ticking away, or maybe it's a small explosive. "Did you touch a dead worm?"

"No," says the boy merrily, "I brought it over here so it could live in my dirt pile and have a nice home!"

Clearly, whether the worm was dead or alive, a worm has been touched. By hands that often reside in the small boy's mouth. No further information is forthcoming. And the time at which the worm-fondling boy should be at school is close at hand. Do you:

a) drag the boy inside, school or no school, and douse him in antibacterial soap, and make him change his clothes because he might have touched some article of clothing with worm-slimed hands;

b) whip some cleaning implement out of your purse, maybe a bottle of that antibacterial hand cleanser, maybe an old wet wipe, and scrub his hands off while dragging him to the car; or

c) tell him to keep his hands out of his mouth and wash them when he gets to school, and hit the road.

If you answered a) ... you're just one of those hygeine happy moms, aren't you? I'll bet your house is just spotless. Don't come over to mine, okay? And, like, don't let my son touch you.

If you answered b) ... you're more organized than I could ever imagine being. Hand cleanser at your fingertips? Usable wet wipes? If I'd have had a wet wipe in my purse, it would have been old and dried out, and I'd've had to spit on it. I suspect that my spit is not antibacterial.

If you answered c) ... well, you're me, then, aren't you? And we know that the average boy, being made up of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, can darn well survive a few worm germs on a spring morning. Don't we? Don't we? He didn't get sent home with a bellyache, anyway. What does not kill him makes him stronger. And at least the worm is happy.

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