visiting friends

graylightOctober 31, 2009


First off, let me just say upfront that I think I probably have some kind of phobia. I never touch doorknobs in public places, (use a napkin or long sleeve), etc. anyway, this issue has been bugging me for quite a long time. I tried to handle it once by just coming out and telling the offender what he did. What am I getting at? Washing hands. Specifically, NOT washing hands after using the toilet. My son's friends sometimes don't do this or just have the water running at the sink for like a second or two so I know that they really didn't wash. Several years ago, when one of his friends did this, I politely (is there a polite way to ask?) asked if he'd washed his hands. He said yes. I asked him if he could wash again. He angrily went up and washed but he never came over again. I don't want to estrange my son's friends from him. But I also don't want germs on computer keyboards and game controllers, etc. Since that time, I've never asked any of his friends again but after they leave, I go around the house cleaning hand held devices with alcohol.

Anyway, it just happened again. Only this time, this friend "washed" his hands in the kitchen sink (!) without soap (I'm assuming without soap because the water only ran a second or two). I did not ask him to wash his hands, I guess they felt gummy to him. He said he was washing his hands and got up and went to the kitchen. Did he use a kitchen towel to dry them? I'm grossing myself out as I write this. I hate to say it, but I can't wait for him to leave so I can start disinfecting. Aghh!

Can anyone relate or am I bonkers? Any solutions?

I should say that most of his friends do have good habits, it's just an occasional fright, and this time it came on HALLOWEEN!

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You don't want to chase his friends away with your requests. He will probably resent you, friends may not want to come to your house. Just clean after they leave and have the hand sanitizers ready for your own use...Or say to the friends you had a bad cold and are afraid they might catch it and hand them the hand sanitizer. But don't embaras you childs friends.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 4:12PM
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I agree you do have a phobia and if you don't get help, you may one day not be able to leave your home. What do you do during the holiday dinners and such. Everyone came to my house sick or not. I would not have wanted them to stay home.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 7:03PM
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I agree, you have a phobia and you need professional help. It's one thing to obsess about your own handwashing, but when you start obsessing about others you've crossed a line. Sadly, your son is being held hostage by your behavior. The fact that you go around disinfecting as soon as guests leave just makes it harder for him. Soon enough, his friends won't want to come over. He will probably be taunted and teased by schoolmates because of your behavior. What happened isn't gross or frightening, it's just something that happens, and neither you nor your son will sicken or die because of it.

We live in a world full of germs and dirt, and our family and friends are full of germs and dirt, and no matter how hard you work at it, you can't disinfect your life. You need help to become more accepting of the realities of life or you will become immobilized by your phobia.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 10:58PM
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I, too, agree that you have a phobia. But that doesn't mean you're bonkers. The good news is that you recognize that it's a problem.

None of use on this forum will be able to help your overcome your phobia; you already know that. But I would agree that you could benefit from some assistance from a professional. There's no stigma in that. You and your family will be much happier if you can temper this.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 7:45AM
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you are suffering from OCD

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:27AM
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My friend said that when her small children were sick she made them stay in their room so they would not infect the others. I told her I would never have shut my kids off from the rest of us when he is sick and miserable. They could always lay on the sofa and watch TV. Raising her sons that way, they grew up thinking everything had to be disinfected after an illness. One of her sons washed the walls and every thing in the bedroom when one of his kids get sick. She passed her phobia on to her kids.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:12PM
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If it makes you feel any better -- you can't catch anything from someone who did not wash their hands after going to the bathroom (at least not #1!).

It is too weird for you to be the "potty police" and yes, your kid's friends will think you are strange!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 10:56AM
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What you described is a phobia. I agree with others. You will inevitably alienate your child and his friends.

You will never eradicate all germs in your home, in fact germs help us build up residence to disease and infection.

You must seek help for your phobia, otherwise it might take over your life. It is good that you are asking questions about this, now. I think the treatment is just slow exposure to the problem, it won't be that bad.

Good luck with it all.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 5:21PM
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I'm sorry to say that besides alienating your children, you're also very likely to give them serious emotional issues. You're making him/them terrified of living in the real world. Even if you don't end up confined to your home by your fear of germs, unless you do something soon, you may be dooming your chilren to being imprisoned by fears such as yours.

I want to add 2 things.

One is an anecdote. I know a lady who is deathly afraid of spiders. So much so, that when her children go to bed at night, she completely rips apart the beds, checking for hidden bugs. She does it with the best of intentions--she's so afraid for them. BUT one of her children has terrible, terrible screaming nightmares frequently. I don't know the cause, but really--if you were a small child, and the last thing you saw your mom doing before you got into your bed, was checking every inch of it for little beasties--wouldn't you be terrified of what was going to crawl in with you during the night? Kids are afraid enough of imaginary monsters at night--it's up to parents to be reassuring, not foster fear. Sadly, you're treating your child the same way--you're so afraid of germs that you're acting unrealistically. And the bad thing there, is you're the only example your children have to go by. They probably think your behavior is normal.

the other--and I'm sure you know this intellectually, if not emotionally--is that it's VERY UNHEALTHY for your child to NOT be exposed to germs. That's how our bodies develop our immune systems. Keep your child's world germ-free, and his body won't learn to protect him. And that means that down the road, he could get a relatively minor illness, that his body won't have the tools to fight off, and he'll either be much sicker than he would normally be, or in some cases, it could make a simple illness a fatal one. I KNOW you want to protect your child. Living around germs and letting your body learn about them is JUST as important to future health as getting the proper immunizations at the proper times. I'm not saying it's good to live in a pigsty--far from it--just that we do need to be exposed to the normal, everyday bacteria that live in our world with us so our bodies recognize them and know what to do to keep them at bay.

If you cannot abide other family's handwashing practices--it's up to you to not invite them into your house. Or you can do as suggested above, sanitize after they leave. But you really should give some thought to speaking with someone who can help you relax about this issue. I do hope you work your way through this for all your sakes. Good luck

    Bookmark   November 8, 2009 at 6:44PM
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I'm glad nobody lied to you in their replies. The part that raised my eyebrows was that you were bothered he rinsed his hands in the kitchen sink and might have used a kitchen towel. So what? What's that sink for? And you know, towels are washable. I also think you need to address your issues with germs. It really sounds like even if every kid who came to your house washed his hands in meticulous standards, there would be something else that would get to you... like are his shoes or socks or feet clean, what did he bring with him that might not be clean, did he put his hands in his mouth?

Changing your perception is not a quick fix, though. In the mean time, you could try to make it easy and appealing for kids to wash hands in your bathroom, like a cute soap dispenser with foaming soap and paper towels to dry their hands. Remind your own son to wash his hands before you feed them a snack or meal, and that will remind his friend, too. You might have to remind yourself often that in the big picture, it's more important to make others feel welcome than to decontaminate the surroundings.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 11:01AM
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I had a neighbor in California that would not let her babies live a normal life for fear they would get sick. They were sick all the time. The doctor asked her some questions to assess the situation and he told her you are over protecting your daughters. If you let them sit in a wet diaper, let them play in the dirt and go out without being bundled up they will be healthier kids. It was hard for her to understand that, but she did relax a little.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 6:26PM
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