Maybe Pig-Pen Had It Right!

(apologies to Charles M. Schulz)

Are you a “five second rule” parent? Are you a “scan the area, wipe it off and feed it to your child” parent? Or are you a “it touched the floor and it will never touch your mouth” parent!

I grew up in a hectic, 7 kids within 10 years of each other, loving household in Brooklyn in the 50′s and 60′s. My mom and dad were a nurse and a surgeon, respectively. They were definitely health conscious but I never remember them being freaked out over cleanliness. Some kids today wash their hands more times a day than my father did on a surgery day! My daughter just spent a week in Mexico on a beach with her 6 month old and dedicated a day to get her little one use to the feel of sand on her hands and her feet. She was determined to make sure Elizabeth got used to the feel of “stuff” squishing between her toes! Yes, it is a lot more work to clean our kids up when they’ve jumped in the puddle in the parking lot or as one of my other grand kids did – using his body board to surf in the neighbor’s irrigation.

Now I know there is a level of hygiene that is sometimes missing especially around washrooms or food. I certainly agree that hands and faces need to be washed but there is some research out there that some strains of disease and infection are becoming more resilient because of an over abundance of cleanliness, antibiotic prescriptions and anti-bacterial soaps.

In the New York Times on January 27 they ran an article in the Personal Health column by Jane Brody titled: Babies Know: A Little Dirt IS Good For You. She summarizes a number of studies to say: “researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body spur the development of a healthy immune system.”

Dr. Joel Weinstock, director of gastroenterology and hepatolgy at Tufts Medical Center in Boston is quoted as saying: “Children raised in an ultra-clean environment are not being exposed to many organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.”

Not trying to run a medical seminar here but Ms. Brody quotes physician after physician who encourage parents to relax and not be soooo vigilant about dirt!!!

As I watch parents progress in their parenting skills I see some funny things evolve. I watched this happen in our own family as our family grew …and grew. The new mom or dad travels with a huge diaper bag with a full pharmacy included in it, four changes of clothes, diapers for a 7 day trip, wipes, hand sanitizers, etc. When the second child arrives, the diaper bag gets smaller, the kids share drinks, and they fight over whatever food is floating in the bag. And then we have those families with three or four children. Something about a “less is more” approach to life takes over. They have a diaper in their back pocket, a small bag of sanitizing wipes in their purse, one change of clothes in the trunk of the car (a tee shirt and elastic shorts that will fit any of the kids), and enough crumbs and unidentified objects under each car seat to supply a full meal if they ever get stuck in a snow storm.

So maybe those five second parents are really helping their kids be healthier. Ahhhh, you don’t know what a five second parent is? They are the parents who when their child drops some food on the floor says “as long as it wasn’t on the floor longer than five seconds, you can pick it up wipe it off and eat it”. Come on, relax and join the club.

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