As a new parent, many of us are worried about germs. Having had two winter babies, I've spent my fair share of time cooped up indoors to avoid going out with a newborn. And we've all heard the progression of binky cleaning from first child to last--starting with heat sanitizing with the first tot, to a brief swipe on the jeans for baby three.
With my first baby, however, I quickly came to realize that kids are resilient. I mean REALLY resilient. You see, my daughter is a licker. Yep, a licker. She has a propensity for sticking her tongue on anything that seems interesting. I'm not sure what she first started licking. Toys, I'm sure. And probably her crib. Eventually I'd find her licking the dining room window or leaving drippy tongue marks on the hardwood in the living room. Of course, I worried at first about the cleanliness off it all. I knew for a fact how long it had been since my floors had been mopped, and I don't think I'd washed the windows since we'd moved in. I started trying to keep things clean enough for licking--but then we'd have to leave the house to run errands, or go on vacation, and there was no way I could wipe every surface within her reach.
To date, she's licked a laundry list of horrible scary, germy things. She's licked the soles of her father's shoes, she's licked bowling balls at the bowling alley, and she's gotten her tongue on the handrails of the Berlin subway. And yet, she doesn't get sick. She must have the immune system of the bionic man.
Now I'm left wondering which came first, the immune system, or the propensity for licking things. Was she born with a strong defense against germs, or has her (almost constant) closeness with the germier things in life boosted her immunity? I'm beginning to think its the later. My son isn't a licker like his sister, but like all babies everything ends up in his mouth and the germs never seem to bother him. I still try (try being the operative word) to keep the floors clean, and the carpets vacuumed, but I've given up worrying about keeping things antiseptic (assuming I ever actually did worry about that--I'm not exactly a neat freak.) Now when I take a quick nap instead of mopping the floors, I just tell myself its all in the name of strengthening my son's defenses against germs and I can sleep with a smile knowing that I go to great lengths for my kids.
Now, to end, I have to share my all time favorite licking story that is sure to send your stomach heaving. My daughter was about 2 and she'd been trained to keep her hand on the car while mommy was loading groceries. I was tossing bags into the trunk of the car at the grocery store and could see her adorable little pigtails bobbing up and down at the side of the car. I wondered exactly what she was doing and stood up to get a better view.
What did I see? I saw my daughter, mouth wide open, hands firmly planted on the vehicle, licking a two foot swath of slobber along the door panel. I screamed, I'm sure. This wasn't just a quick taste. It was a full on tongue wash for my car. I don't know how long it takes to lick that much of a car clean, but there's no doubt she'd been licking for a while. I ordered her to "stop licking the car," eliciting some strange looks from others, and returned to grocery loading. She seemed to oblige me, and I could see her squatting down looking at the tires. She liked tires, nothing new with that.
I finished with the groceries, slammed the trunk and moved for a closer view of her, when to my horror I saw that there was far more than looking going on. Oh no, there was licking! She had successfully licked all along the top of the black rubber tire. I'm not sure if I screamed this time, or just gagged down the bile building in the back of my throat. I'm sure I waited for her to get sick, for her brain to realize what she had just done, but she just smiled and said. "Look, tire."