I’ve always been a bit obsessed with/ worried by germs. For as long as I can remember, I’ve avoided touching certain things and washed my hands A LOT. My hands just don’t feel right until they’ve been washed.
Swine flu made me more obsessive. All those adverts showing people sneezing, then touching hand rails and door handles and other people touching them… Bleurgh.
I started avoiding touching more things. And washing my hands more. And using A LOT of squirty hand sanitiser. My kids have been brought up on squirty hand sanitiser. Much to my husband’s disgust, who comes from the the school of ‘you need a few germs to stop you from being ill’. I say MY way is right, because I never get ill – even when I’m looking after the kids and they’re ill. I totally credit my hygiene practises for avoiding passing illnesses on (I’m touching wood here, but illnesses don’t ever get passed on in our house).
It was inevitable that the hygiene messages would pass on to my kids.
A couple of years ago, I felt almost proud when I saw my daughter open a public toilet door with her sleeve. I hadn’t taught her to do that, but she’d learned it by watching me. I never touch anything ‘dirty’ with my fingertips. It’s always the heel of my hand, the side of my hand, my sleeve or the bottom of my Tshirt or hoodie.
But all of a sudden my daughter is going too far and I’ve realised I’ve done some damage that I need to unpick.
I see her freeze in front of doors in public places as she doesn’t want to touch them. She won’t put her bag on the floor of a train as the floor is dirty (I’ve never had a problem with putting my bag on the floor). She won’t sit at a table in a coffee shop with crumbs on it – or even crumbs on the floor.
My daughter has become a germophobe and it’s all my fault.
Everything I did, I did because I thought it was right for the kids and for me. Now I realise I’ve gone too far. Now I’m having to tell her it’s OK to touch things (even with our fingertips) as long as we wash our hands before eating and don’t put our fingers in our mouths. It doesn’t matter if there are crumbs on the floor and there’s no problem with putting bags on the floor.
I’m having to touch things I don’t want to touch myself to show her that it’s OK. And I’m having to ease up on the squirty hand sanitiser.
I worry that I will have caused permanent issues for her. I’m hoping that I can get her back on track and that it’s not too late to undo the damage I’ve done.