It started yesterday with the tape measure that second son received at the kitchen and bath store. A little present from the sales associate to keep him occupied.
Later in the day, he came to me with his tape measure and said, “I need to wash this.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because there’s poop on it.”
“Why is there poop on it?”
“Little lady has poop in her butt. She touched her butt and then touched my thing.” The thing being the tape measure.
I looked at little lady. “There’s no poop her in butt,” I told him.
“Yes, there is,” he insisted. “Smell it.”
I indulge him, take a whiff and declare, “There’s no poop in her butt. Little lady doesn’t poop in her pants” (she just holds it in until she’s about to explode).
Little lady nods emphatically in agreement.
He begrudgingly lets the whole thing go.
We go to Chuck E. Cheese for a birthday party last night, and of course, when there’s a legitimate concern, he forgets about the whole hand washing thing. So do I.
Then, today, he starts again. “Do I have to wash my hands if I touch this ledge?” referring to a ledge he was sitting on.
“What if there’s poop on it?”
“There’s no poop on it.”
“What if there was?”
“Then you would have to wash your hands,” I say.
Without missing he beat, he says, “Do I have to wash my hands if I touch my pee-pee?”
Ok, I’m starting to sense some neurosis, which means I need to tread cautiously. After all, this is what future therapy sessions are made of, and I’ll be damned if any kid of mine is going to sit on a therapists couch complaining about me. So, I consider, if he had his hands down his pants would I want him to wash them before he eats? Of course. Yet, the way this kid has his hands down his pants, if I say yes, then he’ll be running to the bathroom every five seconds. The problem, trying to convey this without causing an overreaction one way or the other, never washing his hands versus washing his hands continuously. I say, “I don’t know.” It seems like a safe answer.
He’s not satisfied. “What if I eat and touch my pee-pee? Is that ok?”
“Well, I don’t know?” I say. “I mean you wouldn’t want pee-pee in your mouth would you?”
He doesn’t answer. Instead, he asks, “If I was about about to eat and I touch me pee-pee and I forgot to wash my hands, is that ok? Is it? Is it ok, mom?”
“I don’t know?” I say. “Why are you asking me all these questions about washing your hands?”
“Should I wash my hands or not?” he demands. “Just tell me.”
“Your not going to eat, are you?” I ask him.
“But what if I do and forget to wash my hands? This morning I had to wash my hands like 5,000 times. Do I have to wash my hands?”
First son, chimes in from the other room, “Yea, he washed his hands like 5,000 times this morning.”
Ambivalence now gone, I answer confidently, “No.”
I have enough problems, I don’t need to add compulsive hand washing to the list.