Dear Grandparenting: My daughter went bonkers on me about my grandparenting style. Twice she has gone off because she walks in to find Mick (my little grandson) is chewing on some toy. “Is that sterilized?” she screams. Then she said I was not fit to babysit because she could not trust me to keep things clean enough. Then she told me her house was a “germ free zone and that means you too.” So now I am not welcome. I can understand her not wanting sick people around the baby but this is ridiculous! I am always good about washing my hands etc. But she says “this is my baby and you play by my rules” so no visitors for the time being. Is she a nut case or what? Lynn Bell Davis, Atlanta, Ga.
Dear Lynn: We see two issues at play here. The first is this fallacy that it is every good mother’s obligation to bring up their baby in a hyper-clean environment, devoid of germs. Any microbiologist will tell your daughter that is quite impossible. Microorganisms are our planet’s dominant form of life — a healthy human body contains some 90 trillion microbes. Most are beneficial.
More to the point, as many immunologists will tell you, childhood exposure to a range of bacteria is the best way to develop immunity to diseases. Your grandchild needs to play in more dirt, not less. Medical professionals pinpointed the underlying problem with the war on bacteria during the 1980s as diagnoses of children with asthma and food allergies surged. Why? More children spent more time indoors, in sanitized spaces, resulting in idled and weakened immune systems. When it comes to microbes, what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. Besides, it is much easier to build a robust immune system than trying to kill every last germ.
Secondly, a germ phobia is commonly a symptom of mothers with a postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. These symptoms are usually temporary. If you suspect this obsession is interfering with your daughter’s normal functioning and/or the appropriate care of your grandson, don’t hesitate to seek help. Medical intervention may be in order.
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GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
James Wood from Casa Grande, Ariz. likes to say he’s a “grandfather with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.”
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Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.