The first time I brought our baby girl home from the hospital, I was completely unaware of the fierce Mommy protectiveness that lie hidden in me. Suddenly, the whole world was out to get my baby with all their germs, diseases and calamities. I wanted to hold Maddie close to me and not ever let anyone other than me or her daddy hold her for any reason. I even remember going to a Christmas party when she was a few months old. Rob and I made a secret pact that no one was going to hold or touch her for any reason except for us. We were slightly paranoid, but thought we were awesome parents for keeping her so healthy.
One time we had a “hacking” visitor ringing our door bell to see our newborn baby girl. By hacking, I mean, coughing and spewing and coughing. He walked in the door coughing, and between gasps, asked to see our new baby. I ran and hid with her while Rob explained that the baby was “busy.”
Now that my kids are older, the protective fierceness has lessened some. I don’t make them take a bath in Purell after school, and I don’t always make them wash their hands. Despite my leniency on some of these things, I still feel this need to protect my children from the same germs, diseases and calamities that always seem like they are out to get them.
Because of these fiercely protective instincts, I await the first few weeks of school with dread. From the last day of the school year in the springtime until the first day of school in the fall, our kids are normally 100 percent healthy. To get ready for the “germ fest” of their school environment, I stock up the cabinets with vitamins, Clorox wipes, and most importantly, stock up on school supplies that my kids (hopefully) won’t be sharing.
Schools are being more cautious than ever in protecting kids from germs. Teachers faithfully scrub tables with antibacterial wipes, especially during the cold and flu season. Hand sanitizer is available to children at all times, and the bathroom sinks are in the hallways to make sure kids wash their hands after they use the rest room and before they eat lunch.
With all these precautionary measures, my kids were sicker last year than they have ever been. They each missed between 10-14 days of school, which is really a crazy amount for them considering they are generally very healthy and strong kids.
I remember the first week of school last year, Whitney came down with bronchitis. I got a call from the school nurse and had to pick her up from school. The school nurse said that it was the first week of school and already half the school was sick. I told that to our family doctor, Dr. Jesse Hsieh, later that day, and he asked me one question: Do they sit in their own desks, or are they at shared tables? I told him they sat at shared tables, and shared all their supplies from a basket in the middle of the table. His answer: Germ Fest.
On top of taxes that we pay into our community for our children’s education, we pay between $100-$200 per child for supplies and textbooks at the beginning of each school year. The teachers do all the school supply shopping for our children. At first, I thought this was a wonderful idea. It saved me a ton of time, and my kids would have the same stuff as all the other kids. What I did not factor in was that all those supplies would be placed in bins in the center of each table for all the kids to share. I’m all about sharing, but quickly realized that they were sharing every sneeze, germ and booger that went from their classmates little hand to their marker to my kids’ hand when they shared that same marker.
I’m opting out of sharing this year. I still have to pay the supply fee, but I am hitting the school supply sales and buying all school supplies. I am telling them for the first time in their lives NOT to share.
Dr. Jesse Hsieh of the South Bend Clinic stated that the most important thing to teach children about staying healthy in a “sick” environment is to keep their little hands away from their eyes, nose and off of their face. He said, “I work in a “sick” environment with sick people coming and going all day. The way I stay healthy here is to wash my hands frequently and to keep my hands away from my face.”
Keeping your children away from germs is next to impossible, unless it is a stranger that enters your home that is hacking and coughing that you can run and hide from. Taking precautionary measures such as buying their own supplies, not sharing, and keeping hands away from their little faces will ensure that your precious babies will have a happy and healthy school year.
This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Michiana Family magizine. Online link here