Relaxing My Fears About Potty Talk, Germs, and Kissing Shoes

It always seems to happen around the table. I’m biting into a forkful of food and my son begins a story about the boys’ bathroom.

“Is this appropriate?” I interrupt.

“Yeah, yeah,” he assures me. It’s usually appropriate in the manner that it’s not about him.

I know far too much about the boys’ bathroom already. A mother shouldn’t know these things. Boys rolling on the floor amongst the filth splattered between misses each day. Boys flushing pencils to see if they’ll go down. Urinals for every day of the week. The bad words scratched into the stall doors. Urinals that are too tall. Stall doors that don’t lock and the surprised kids behind them. Boys who have christened the porcelain bowls with wet tongues. And really, you don’t even want to know what gets clogged in there, or so I’ve heard. No, the boys’ bathroom is no place for anyone over 13, the stories not for the weak.

Whenever my son starts a sentence with “Today in the boys’ bathroom,” I cringe. Part of me doesn’t want to hear it, but another part of me wants to know if I need to rush my child in for shots.

I’ve always thought a dog’s mouth was disgusting, but elementary school has shed some light on boys and what they do with theirs. They follow their turkey on soft bread at lunch with a slobbery swipe of their tongue across the sole of their grimy shoe. In truth or dare, that seems to be the better option over giving up the name of the girl you like.

I’ve seen how kids wash their hands. The foaming action doesn’t resemble mine. The nails and areas between fingers don’t get scrubbed. The soap sits in the palm and gets blasted off the second water makes contact. Little disinfecting goes on.

clean hands

Not what usually goes on in the bathroom sink.

I’ve come to terms with this I think, but I don’t like it and the girl part of my brain still can’t understand it. The mom part of me still insists on soap and water every afternoon before my son touches anything in this house.

I’m learning to let go of germophobic tendencies. So far, the CDC hasn’t come knocking on our door. While my son rolls on a public floor proudly marking his territory, his sister fears the crusty bits stuck to the pages in her books. I’m learning not to be so reliant on a little bottle of sanitizing gel. While one child invites germs to every meal, the other has an increasingly unhealthy fear of them. I can’t help but think I’ve contributed to this in some way. Each time I’ve flinched at dirty hands or used my foot to prop open a public door, my daughter took note. Kids shouldn’t be so afraid of germs. I’ve read the articles. They need exposure to ward off sickness.

Since my family manages to be reasonably healthy, I need to relax and let go of my fears, let my son be a boy, and help us all find some middle ground for sanity’s sake. I’m not saying we should kiss the bottom of our shoe as thanks for every meal, but maybe I shouldn’t fear everything my kids touch. We can’t live our lives under the covers, even though sometimes I’d prefer it to sitting in a crowded room with coughing strangers. I’ll still tell my son he doesn’t have to touch every nasty thing he sees. And I’m still not letting him kiss me with that mouth, just in case.

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47 Comments

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47 responses to “Relaxing My Fears About Potty Talk, Germs, and Kissing Shoes

  1. I have a seven year old son, and I can completely relate. They are grimy little people!

  2. This post made me laugh out loud. I too am a germophobe, which presents a huge problem living in a city of a billion sick people (ok, I’m exaggerating a little) and taking public transportation everywhere we go. I too have witnessed that handwashing technique and at three years old I feel fine standing over him yelling “rub your hands together!” From your post, this is child’s play! I guess I should start easing up on my issues now. Love this title!!!

    • It’s been very interesting seeing how my fears have started to rub off on my daughter. I can see that it’s really unhealthy for her, and I know as a kid I probably did a lot of the same things my son does–except for licking shoes. I know I never did that! I’m trying to lighten up. After all, I survived childhood.

  3. I love this post! And it’s so, so true! As adults, we become so addicted to our cutsie little hand sanitizers, that we don’t realize we did all that gross stuff as children too. Children need to get exposed to those germs so they have a nice, healthy immune system.. but I completely agree, licking the bottom of shoes might not be the best option lol

  4. Good Post! Thanks for the chuckle.

  5. Scrubbing dirt out of my seven year old’s nails drives me crazy and now with flu season in full swing …. You’re not alone.

  6. As a teacher of K-5 kids, I get regular exposure to many forms of yuckiness. I’m pretty sure I could inhale anthrax at this point, and be completely immune.

  7. This was a reassuring post to me. Sometimes people gasp in horror when I let my kids do things like chew on my keys or phone, probably because there was some germ expose on the latest Doctor Oz. I think things were way less sanitary when I was a kid, and then there were my hippie days. . . just sayin’, I think we are all gonna’ make it. (That said, I wash with a full lather every 5-10 minutes. . . ) Nice post!

    • Yeah, I totally remember not washing my hands as a kid and I wasn’t sick all the time. I never used tissues either, just my shirt sleeve or my hand. At least I know better now. 😉

  8. Aw, I look forward to my Doodle growing more into the gross boy that I’m sure my husband will make him. I only had sisters, so it’s a very foreign world to me too, but I think it’s a novel time in a boy’s life. I don’t want my fears of gross yucky things stopping him from exploring how he needs to. Even when that means mashed up bugs, which I am probably most fearful of currently. 🙂

  9. Well as the mum of a 15 month old boy, I see the future and its scary and germ shaped!

  10. Oh my gosh, the stories. We get similar ones here too — and not just from my boys!

    We once had to call out a tech when something caused our aerator (a crucial piece of septic equipment) stopped functioning. It was a swimsuit top tangled in the shaft. One guess as to how it got down in there.

  11. It’s been a LONG time since my son was a little boy, but some things (and stories of things) we never forget.

  12. Keep a bottle of Listerine handy!

    • I don’t know if you ever read my post about the boys’ bathroom, but a friend said she felt the need to hose her kids down with bleach every day after reading that. You do almost want them to change clothes, take a bath, and brush their teeth before they enter your house. But who knows what nasty things we touch out in the world too, right?

  13. Oh no now you’ve got me scared of the elementary school age years! My 3 year old just started preschool and has been sick twice already, generously spreading it here at home (while I’m pregnant with twins, yay). I’ve seen those snotty kids too and can’t believe we’re inviting those germs to our house lol.

    • They do go through a time of being constantly sick once introduced to those germs. My kids didn’t have much trouble in preschool, but my daughter missed quite a bit of kindergarten and brought every nasty thing home to us. And I know she wasn’t on the bathroom floor!

  14. mommyoverboard

    Lol… Thanks to your post I’m feeling very grateful that I’m a mother to two girls!!! I have my own set phobias of my girls sitting in public bathrooms!!! They know the drill! As soon as we enter a public bathroom, their hands are up and I do all the work for them!

    • When my kids were younger, that was always an ordeal. I’ve had times when I’d have to hold my youngest and try to keep my son from rolling all over the floor then. Public restrooms can definitely be worse than school restrooms. At least those are kids who don’t know any better. Well, without constant supervision. 😉

  15. Living in Asia for 6 years taught me that our immune systems can tolerate quite a bit if we will give them a chance to prove themselves. I’ve eaten stuff that most of my friends don’t even want to know about. But I never roll on bathroom floors . . . That’s just bad manners. 🙂

    • Yeah, I’ll never forget when my son was in kindergarten and came home and told me about what the older boys did in the bathroom. He was shocked. He was like, “Mom, So-and-So put his FOOT in the urinal! Ew!” Now he thinks it’s funny.

      Thanks for the heads-up about eating in Asia. I’m sure I don’t want to know either but maybe my imagination is making it worse.

  16. Scientists believe (and I’m not making this up) that our society has so much GI trouble because our systems are too clean. These boys are simply trying to prevent future GI issues. Give them a break, Karen~

    • They’re giving me GI issues with all the worrying I’ve done over their little adventures. I’m trying to lighten up but it’s tough when your kids’ friends are licking toilets. Peer pressure, you know. What on earth could be next? 😉

      • Maybe he knows how much it bugs you. That would make me tell my mother those stories. 😉

      • Oh, you’ve got me there. He has definitely come home before and taunted me with gross stories. But I figure at least he tells me about his day, right?

      • I would have exaggerated it to make my mother cringe. It’s funny to watch them squirm, you know. Me, I could generally out-gross my son.

      • I can definitely out-gross my husband. At this point in time, I do not want to give my son any ideas. I’m not sure my son is that smart yet, though, now that I think about it. He’s too honest. I’m sure he tells me what happens to make me squirm, but no embellishment goes on. I think my daughter is the one to watch out for. She’s much more like me. 😉

  17. As a mom of girls and a sister with no brothers, I had NO idea what went on in boys bathrooms! Ewww! I applaud you for letting go and trusting your kids will make it through life just fine with a few germs and a lot bathroom bonding. I’m not sure I could do it!! It would be really hard to hear about the bathroom stuff without immediately sticking my kids and their tongues in a soapy tub! Great post – I laughed out loud several times!

    • The key word is trying! Honestly, after dealing with this for several years now and realizing I can’t control it, there is little left to do. Also, I’ve seen that through all the gross things my son has touched, he really must have one tough immune system. Most things he catches come right after his sister has had it.

  18. I have two boys and grew up with 2 sisters so I really understand this! My boys are 8 and 6 now and I gave up worrying unduly about what they were touching, licking or whatever quite a long time ago! I take it on a need to know basis and I don’t really need (or want!) to know details!! I still have a problem with public conveniences (restrooms?) though…just try not to look too hard!

  19. Oh my four year old has such riot stories of all the pee-riots they have at the urinal !! I can totally relate !

  20. Feeling pretty thankful for two girls after reading that lol

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