Life with a smile: Do kids really need baths? It’s debatable

Published 6:36 am Saturday, June 2, 2018

I have what I often refer to as a “casual relationship with germs.”

While I certainly believe in their existence in an abstract way, the reality of their presence doesn’t concern me overly much in my day-to-day activities. I am not the mom with a bottle of hand sanitizer strapped to her purse at all times, ready to hose down children, cutlery and plastic toys.

The five-second rule is more like a five-minute rule when it comes to food on the floor in my house and I have been known to blow the dirt off foods dropped in the grass, before presenting them to my kids for consumption.

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In the name of full disclosure, I must admit that my relaxed approach has come back to haunt me on a few occasions. It turns out that even I have a grossness threshold that can be breached. My daughter once ate a Skittle that she found on the floor beneath the candy dispenser in Walmart. It was not a good moment for any of us.

Happily, my children are blessed with warrior white blood cells and, despite my lax attitude toward routine pathogens, are rarely sick. We’ve dealt with exactly one round of the stomach bug in nine years of parenting. Deep down inside, I really do believe this may be connected to the fact that I allow them to eat dirt. The fact that their father is never sick also suggests genetics may play a role.

Given all you’ve just read, it probably won’t surprise you that daily baths do not come standard at my house. For the record, I shower every day — in part because it’s socially expected and in larger part because I suffer from crazy bedhead and look like a hungover Wookie if I don’t wash my hair every day.

But my kids get washed with less frequency. They’re still young enough that daily showers aren’t mandatory from a hygiene and olfactory perspective, though my friends with older children warn me that those days are numbered. I have lost count of how many people have told me, in tones of both awe and revulsion, how bad teenage boys smell.

Bath time is just such a production when there’s three of them and one of me. We lead busy lives and I often cannot muster the energy for all the scrubbing and fussing and rinsing and splashing and drying and combing and cries of stop-drinking-the-bath-water-that’s-disgusting.

I lean heavily on my co-parent in this arena. My kids’ dad believes firmly in daily baths, which gives me the latitude to skip them at my house. They’re with him at least three nights a week which means they’re getting washed roughly 50% of the total days in each week. Not bad.

As we barrel into the summer, my cleanliness standards for the kids will actually go up, rather than down. This might seem counterintuitive but the “summer baby grunge” is about to set in. I coined this phrase many years ago and while my children are no longer babies, the premise holds true. After long summer days, my children come home covered in an astonishing assortment of substances. Mud, sweat, sunscreen, chlorine, popsicle residue, etc. They are satisfied and happy — but they are also sticky and visibly dirty.

Thus, I do insist on somewhat more regular baths in the summer. Or at least a good spraying with the backyard hose. And if they find an abandoned goldfish cracker out on the lawn while they’re cleaning up, they’re welcome to eat it.