This week I took the boys shopping for wedding dresses for my best friend, Kristy. It was such a huge day and we visited several different bridal shops and watched Kristy try on a lot of different dresses in different styles. I tried on a few bridesmaid dresses as well to get an idea of style and colour. The boys were very well behaved: it was a long day for them and they were bored, but they still behaved very well. I was really proud of them. Our last stop was to a stationery store specializing in wedding paper and invitations. By this point they were both tired and fed up, and I don't blame them. It's not surprising that two little boys would not have the best time shopping for dresses.
However, when we got to the stationery store, there in the corner was a playpen full of toys. Genius! I could finally have somewhere to put them, they would get to actually play and be contained, and we could spend time looking at invitations and paper.
Holding Victor on my hip, I hesitated. I looked at the playpen. It looked clean enough, and I thought that surely it wouldn't be used all that frequently. There were no other children in the shop. But I also wondered how often the toys were cleaned? Probably never, would be my guess. I wondered how many children had put the toys in their mouths, how many had coughed and sneezed all over them, how many had grubby hands before playing with the toys? Probably all of them.
I know there is a limited time frame for how long germs can live on a hard surface like that, but for some viruses and bacteria it is long enough to pass to the next kids playing with those toys. And I have no idea when those toys were last played with: a week ago? A day ago? An hour ago?
It sucks, because I would never think twice about letting Felix play in there.
Victor was so desperate to get down and play. He had been carted around all day and barely had any time to play at all. So I put him in the playpen. I just had to trust there was nothing nasty in there. After all, he is still a kid, and he needed to play. He deserved to play.
I know I can't keep him in a bubble and I can't eliminate all health risks for him. We can do the obvious, such as hand washing and keeping him away from people who are unwell, but there are bugs everywhere and it's impossible to live in a sterile environment. I also know that he has to build up his immune system like everyone else, and limited exposure to germs can help with that. I also can't live life in fear of sickness. That is a one-way road to crazy town.
We are headed into winter so I will be stocking up on anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer and being vigilant with it. I guess this is one of those situations where the phrase 'everything in moderation' works well as we try to strike a balance between reducing his exposure to germs but not destroying his childhood in the process.