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.
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.