Friday, December 14, 2007

This Is The Way We Wash Our Hands....

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)Saturday, March 17, 2007

This is the way we wash our hands, we wash our hands...

My biggest pet peeve is people who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom. The mere thought of this, without fail, brings on a stress-induced case of hives. Studies show that hand-washing with ANY soap (not just the anti-bacterial ones) and tepid water is MORE effective than the best anti-bacterial hand sanitizer on the market. Washing your hands is also the simplest thing you can do to avoid infecting yourself or others with hundreds of harmful organisms. I know that I have mentioned this in previous blog, but I feel, given that cold & flu season is extending into Spring this year, now is the time to address it.

My mother tells me that from the time I was old enough to understand and tall enough to reach, I have done two things without fail: flush the toilet and wash my hands. Not flushing is another of my pet peeves. Who in their right mind thinks it is okay to leave human waste floating about? Nasty. Maybe they didn't have a good mother like I did. And don't give me this crap about wasting water. God, the wise and clever Creator, made the earth to naturally recycle it's water supply. Cloud to rain, rain to river, evaporation to cloud and so on.There is the same amount of water on earth today as there was 1000 years ago. We learned it in 5th grade science...look it up. Sorry for the "rabbit trail" there, but it was a related topic.

Where was I? Oh yeah... Anyway, Mother says that she only had to teach me to do these things once and never had to remind me. I'm told that it was obvious that I didn't really like to get dirty, but I'd play in the dirt like any other little kid. When the time came to clean up, there as never a problem. She said that I loved to wash my hands. If I were ever missing for any length of time, she'd find me in the bathroom, happily washing my hands.

She said I loved washing my hands, so much so, that she was afraid there may be a problem. One of my aunts was a nurse and was in the practice of not only washing her hands after she went, but washed them before as well. There was very sound reasoning behind it, and I soon adopted this habit as well. It became such a habit, that it was not long before I automatically washed my hands whenever I was in the bathroom, regardless of if I'd actually used it or not. It was a little inside joke between my mother and me. As I grew older, we called it my "Lady McBeth syndrome" know, "...out, out, damned spot !.." I actually still do this from time to time and my friends are somewhat bemused by it, but I can't help it. Now knowing that I am somewhat OCD, it actually makes sense.

I do not know if it was my mother, or perhaps someone at Valley View Kindergarten (like the beloved Miss Gail, who sang "I've got the Joy, Joy ,Joy, Joy, down in my heart," everytime she saw me) who taught it to me, but for as long as I can remember, I've known a little ditty called "The Hand Washing Song."

As catchy a little tune, as it is ingenius. It is just the right length to ensure proper hand-washing technique and is sung to the tune of "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush." It goes a little something like this:

This is the way we wash our hands
We wash our hands
We wash our hands
This is the way we wash our hands
Everytime we wash them

[Then, to make sure we get all the soap (cause there MUST be soap) rinsed off, we sing]

This is the way we rinse our hands
We rinse our hands
We rinse our hands
This is the way we rinse our hands
Everytime we rinse them

Sometimes people will catch me humming it while I wash my hands, even to this day. I taught my own children to wash their hands using this song, and was actually under the impression that everyone who was at least my age or younger had been taught to wash their hands with it. Imagine my shock and horror when I discovered that some people had never even been taught to wash their hands at all!

(Excuse me a moment while I take a Benedryl for the hives that have just started to develop)

This brings me to the story of a rather eye-opening Easter Sunday just a few years ago. I have attended the same church all of my life, as have many of my friends and their parents. Having grown up with these people, you think that I'd know nearly everything about them. This incident, however, shocked me so, that I shudder every time I think of all the time that I had spent with this person over the years. It was also the last time I ever served on nursery duty.

On this particular Sunday, I was put in charge of the three year old class. There were eight little girls and the preacher's son. Because it was Easter, we were all dressed in our finest from head to toe, including eight pairs of nearly identical, white, patened-leather shoes and frilly white socks. The preacher's boy decided right out of the gate, that his shoes and socks were a hinderance. Despite my reasoning, he quickly peeled them off and left them in a little pile at the classroom door. This started a riot and soon I was faced with a pile of white leather and lace in the middle of the floor and no clue as to who's were whom's. Despite this, I chose to make the most of the time and passed out the cookies and Kool-aid. I planned to read the little Easter storybook I had and was then going to let everyone color until their parents came for them and help sort out the socks & shoes mess

This is when a little girl, I will call "Miss Priss" for the sake of annonimity, came to me and told me she needed to use the bathroom. Miss Priss is the child of a person I've known most of my life. I had been a guest in not only the childhood home of this person, but the adult home as well. I had spent a great deal of time around this family over the years. That is why what happens next is so appalling to me.

At our church, all the Sunday School classes on the children's floor have a bathroom in them. Having had a three year old girl myself, not once but now twice, I knew that there was only so much they could do by themselves. So I left the class under the care of the teenager sent to help me and accompanied Miss Priss into the bathroom to supervise and assist if needed. I helped her to gather up her frilly dress and onto the potty, that had thankfully been equipped with a stool and one of those seat inserts that keep child-size behinds from falling through the adult-size opening. I turned my back and asked if she thought she needed anymore help. She assured me that she did not and went about her business, which took forever and made me wonder if I'd given everyone too much Kool-aid.

When she was done, she hopped down, pulled up her panties and out the door she went, not even giving the sink a passing glance. I had half-expected her not to remember to flush, but not stopping to wash her hands was something different entirely.

"Miss Priss!" I called after her, "You forgot to wash your hands." I sang."No I didn't." she sang in reply, "I don't have to.."I felt a knot form in my throat. "Oh yes ma'am you do.." I choked back"No, I don't!" she said smiling and she turned back to the group, listening to the teenager reading the story."Yes ma'am" I said sternly and took her little arm to lead her back to the sink, "you just used the bathroom"

Then she said something that has made me question the parenting skills of this life-long friend ever since.

"But I didn't touch the potty!" she screamed indignantly, trying to twist free of my grasp.Suddenly visions of eating with this family, utensils and plates passed to me by them, pot-luck suppers where I knowingly ate food prepared by them, came flooding back to me. The hives popped up immediately.

At that point, I was more determined than ever to get Miss Priss's hands washed. I squirted soft soap clean up to her elbows,so she wouldn't miss a spot, all the while singing "The Hand Washing Song", every last word. She yowled in protest for the duration, trying to drown out my singing. When we were done, she retreated to a corner, where she sat in a huff, arms crossed, bottom lip protuding, until her parents came to collect her after the service.

Mercifully, every mother was able to identify her child's shoes and socks effortlessly and had busied themselves re-shoeing their children as the Priss parents arrived.

"Why is she sitting over there like that" Mother Priss asked me."Oh, we had a little disagreement." I responded, " Nothing major. I'm not punishing her, though. She sat there on her own.""What happened?" she asked."Well, she used the bathroom and then wouldn't wash her hands. I think she's mad at me because I made her come back over here and do it." I laughed, sure that this mother would respond that they've been working on it,or she's had the same problem, or any other mother-to-mother response. I mean, the child was three. I 'd been there. I understood it was a process that some had to teach repeatedly

Instead, Mother Priss looked at me like I'd just spoken to her in Chinese.

"I see." she said coolly, pursing her lips together like I'd seen her do when she disapproved of something.

I see..? I see...! How about " Oh, thank you!" but I SEE?!

Then, I had another thought that I can't shake to this day: this child learned this at home. At home, she was taught that as long as you don't touch the toilet when you use it, it is okay not to wash your hands afterward. If this child wasn't being taught to do something so basic, what else were they missing?

"Well, okay then, ya'll have a nice Easter" I said, smiling weakly, scratching the expanding patch of hives on my left arm.

Needless to say, ever since this incident, I have been quick to decline any invitations to the Priss home and am sure to have their pot-luck dishes identified at every church function. I point them out to my family and suggest that perhaps they "wouldn't like it and shouldn't try it."

Okay, I admit, I have some quirky habits. I am a packrat from way back and I like to feel of interesting fabrics. I enjoy mustard on my french fries, and salsa in my eggs. But none of these are a threat to public health!

I saw a commercial this week, promoting hand washing as a means to help end this unusually long cold & flu season. They are encouraging everyone to sing "Old McDonald" while hand-washing.

Well, like everything else I do, I'll be washing to a different tune.

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