It’s a continuous struggle in our house.
“Did you wash your hands?” after we get home from school, before we eat a snack.
“Did you wash your hands?” after going to the bathroom.
I’ve been slightly and silently joyous over the fact that Red’s second grade teacher informed them of Swine Flu, and even though it hasn’t come to our city, she warned everyone to sneeze and cough into their inner elbow and wash their hands frequently.
For the first time in her eight years, Red washes her hands at all appropriate times.
And then some.
But I noticed at first, she was afraid. I mean, SWINE FLU just does not sound good, right? Even if you have no idea what it means, as an eight year old. The name “SWINE FLU” is just plan something you don’t want to get.
I quelled her fears but reminded her that even if the swine flu wasn’t hopping around the U.S., it was important to wash hands and cover our coughs appropriately.
Over the weeks, I noticed something.
It has gone from good to bad.
She’s actually washing her hands too much.
I am noticing she is washing them more often, even when she hasn’t coughed or gone to the bathroom. Sometimes it is ten minutes after the last time she washed them.
Last night was the last straw.
I was woken up at fucking FOUR a.m. to her standing at my side.
“Mommy. I have to wash my hands.”
I took her downstairs to wash her hands, angry and upset for the fear that she suddenly has instilled in her. In fact, I spoke angrily TO her and I feel like shit because I know she’s scared and I know I am scared that she is scared….a vicious cycle.
That night, I used the opportunity to go to the bathroom, while she washed her hands. As we were leaving the bathroom, she ran back and pumped a shot of liquid soap onto her hands and washed again.
“What did you do that for? You just washed your hands,” I exclaimed.
“I forgot to use soap the first time!” she said.
As we trudged back upstairs to her bed, she was all snuggled back in and I looked at the clock, wondering if I would be able to go back to sleep for a few hours. I pointed my finger at her and said firmly, “YOU MAY NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT”.
And she hasn’t, thank GOD.
Last night we had a bad episode where she wouldn’t put her clothes away unless she could wash her hands afterwards. And I was like, “the clothes are CLEAN!” And she goes, “FINE I will clean them up but not touching my socks or underwear.” (which had just come out of the laundry.
So you know what I did? To prove a point? I picked up all her underwear and socks and touched them all and then I proceeded to lick my hands. “See? I’m not getting sick!”
She laughed and looked skeptical but interested in the fact that I didn’t drop dead.
I thought I had gotten somewhere, but then, I made the mistake of picking up her lambies.
Note to self: Do not lick hands and then touch Lambies.
She is now thoroughly convinced that I have given her the Swine Flu.
I spoke with her teacher today, curious if she was behaving similarly at school. Fortunately, only two things have changed. Her request for extra doses of hand sanitizer, other than the dedicated “before lunch and snack” times. The teacher said to Red, “Oh no, we only need it before we eat.” And apparently, Red, would accept it and go back to her work.
The other thing was that this morning, they had morning greet time as they usually do in second grade and all the second graders shake each other’s hands. Red kept her hands in her pockets, slipping just under the radar. No one said anything and nor did she, but still, she didn’t take her hands out of her pockets.
I suspect she will get over it.
Her dad and I agreed to not react or even talk about it anymore and if we are in a situation where we can control it, we just say “no, we’re not taking a second bath tonight, you already had one.”
I suspect that AT LEAST when school is out and we are spending out days at the beach and outside, she will get over it and forget about it. I just pray that in the Fall and Winter it doesn’t happen again. I am considering taking her to the pediatrician to have him explain in kid-speak how it all works, and let some higher up authority (because I don’t appear to be good enough) tell her that she will be okay.
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