When I Overheard My Son, I Knew it Was My Fault


Over the summer, my son had his first solo playdate. A neighbor the same age came over for a playdate without his mom. I hovered in the next room close enough to hear how things were going but not close enough for them to know I was there.

And then I heard it.

My son asked the other where his birthday party was held. The friend responded “Chuck E. Cheese” and my son scoffed:

Why would you ever do that?!?! Do you WANT to get sick? There are so many germs.

Whoops. There is no question where he got that rhetoric from.

I am one of those germ-paranoid moms. My minivan is stocked with Purell in every cup holder and there are handwashing protocols as soon as you walk in the door to my house. We have never been on indoor play places, even at Chick-fil-a. I have personally never been in a Porta-Potty and it is my goal for my children to never either.

I know. It’s intense and ridiculous.

When I went through chemo with young kids, I asked my doctor what precautions I needed to take to stay well. He suggested excessive use of hand sanitizer and handwashing…which my kids had been preparing their whole lives for!

But I’m not going through chemo anymore. Getting a cold is inconvenient but not deadly.

I need to dial. it. back.

Not the handwashing. Never dial back the handwashing. My son is the only one in his kindergarten class that washes his hands before lunch. He also has made it so far (fingers crossed) through the first ¾ of the school year without a single sick day. Handwashing for the win.

I need to dial back my intensity on the handwashing and germs. When my kids begin to accost their peers, it’s a problem.

As moms, we all have things we feel passionately about. We all have things where we are adamant about the specific way they should be done. Maybe it’s a logistic, maybe it’s a value, maybe it’s a belief.

But when these preferences become so strong that our kids are criticizing others for not abiding by them, it has gone too far.

I want my kids to be healthy but I also want them to be healthy citizens and exercise kindness and tolerance and compassion. If they can’t accept someone else’s birthday party choice, how are they going to be able to accept the bigger things?

I have to do better. I have to be less – less fanatical, less rigid, less absolute. I need to help my children learn to be more – more patient, more understanding, more accepting. It’s not about the germs, it’s about the paranoia. It’s about acknowledging other ways to do things. Ultimately, it’s about teaching my kids to value ideas and people different than themselves.

Recently, my son casually informed me that he has used the “smelly potty” (Porta-Potty) on the playground multiple times. After I caught my breath, I realized that he ended up just fine.