Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Rubber Duckies Are Dangerous
Rubber duckies are dangerous.
One of the morning programs aired a segment regarding childrens bath toys, and unveiled the scary fact that dangerous bacteria grow and spread like wildfire amongst the rubber duckies and toy boats. One reporter sent her kid's toys to a lab, which swabbed for the treacherous bugs... lo and behold, it was contaminated with "fecal bacteria"!!!!!
I kept sipping my coffee.
Maybe its just me, but having survived the toddler years with my kids (twice over, as they are seven years apart), I've come to accept the truth that bacteria, fecal and otherwise, is a fact of life. While its important to keep hot food, hot and cold food, cold... to encourage hand-washing and cough-covering... to keep the kitchen and bathrooms acceptably sanitary (my standards for which vary, depending on the week)... one simply cannot live in fear of every nasty little bug lurking in the crevices of our homes.
Seriously, no matter how vigilant you are about bubble-wrapping your kid and dunking them in bleach water, they will, at some point, play in the cat box (or the cat will use the sandbox), get french-kissed by a dog who just ate something dead and putrid, eat a bug, romp in a stagnant, scum-covered mud puddle. The antidote always has been to toss my little one into a suds-filled bathtub and let her play (with those sewage-infested toys!) until the dirt from beneath her fingernails dissolved and her toes wrinkled like prunes.
Now, after all this time, some guy in a lab coat informs me that those baths were "bacteria soup"?
I don't think so. Bacteria soup is the juice which collects in the bottom of the garbage bin while it waits for the truck to empty it on Monday morning. Its the stuff that overflows the septic tank, or cultures in the Cool-Whip container of leftovers shoved to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten for... well, a long time. Bath water is soap and water... still proven to be the most effective kid-cleaning solution to date.
In my opinion, its far more important to make sure the children are well-fed, get plenty of exercise, plenty of sleep and more than enough love. No matter how vigilant you try to be, bacteria (and viruses, and fungi) are everywhere. They outnumber your kid a bajillion to one. Common sense tells us that if your kid's bath toy is looking grungy or black furry stuff starts growing inside it, you toss it in the dishwasher or throw it away (when Precious Darling is otherwise distracted, if peace in the home is your preference). Otherwise, rather than trying so hard to shelter the children by sanitizing and bubble-wrapping and forbidding them to play with bath toys... maybe we ought to lighten up a bit and focus on building healthy immune systems?
The amazing thing about the immune system is that its automatic, its free, and works remarkably well. The immune system is vigilant 24/7, even when Mom's back is turned. It quietly does its job, destroying E. Coli and Staphylococcus and myriad other invaders on a daily basis, and we don't even hear about it or get a progress report from the battlefield. We only get notified when the immune system is overwhelmed and needs to call in reinforcements.... a relatively rare occurrence, usually when it has been compromised by fatigue or poor nutrition.
Life is too short to be stressing about the bath toys and fearful about what lurks in the bathwater. Hyper-vigilance is not only redundant, it is exhausting. We need to relax a bit, enjoy our children, nurture and spend time with them, while placing just a little faith in the fact that we, and our children, are fearfully and wonderfully made.