I took Teddy downtown last week for a work party at a bar. He did pretty well, despite the fact that it was near his bedtime and the place was loud and crowded with unfamiliar people. His little pacifier helped him cope, but as usual, he spit it out at one point and it rolled onto the floor. 

Another woman, a fellow mother who had just spent several minutes cooing over Teddy, picked it up. When I went to reach for it, her eyes widened.

“You have to rinse it off first,” she said, her voice containing a note of mild alarm. 

“Of course,” I replied, trying to act as if I shared her concern, and I thanked her as she asked the bartender to rinse it off and handed the pacifier back to me. 

Confession: I do not care if Teddy’s pacifier falls on the floor. Same for his toys. I don’t mind him laying on the floor, the ground at the park nor on a blanket that’s been recently inhabited by someone else’s pet. When visitors came to hold newborn Teddy and made a big show of washing their hands first, I just shrugged. Especially when he was smaller, Teddy didn’t take a pacifier that well, but he was always comforted by sucking on the tip of my pinky. I would wash my hands before giving it to him only if they felt dirty. But my standard for dirty is probably way filthier than the average definition.

I’ve never cared about germs. Liz and I joke that we don’t even believe in them. We do, scientifically, of course. We just don’t care to disinfect everything, nor spend time worrying about it. I would say that we have intense scientific justification for not sanitizing everything, but mostly, we’re just a bit lazy when it comes to this issue. I mean, yeah, we’ve heard the stuff about how too clean isn’t good and the warnings about antibacterial chemicals, etc., and that’s certainly great justification for our germ-ignoring lifestyle, but when it comes down to it, we just don’t care. Frankly, our mutual laziness is one of the reasons why we’re buddies. 

There are plenty of opportunities in motherhood to climb atop one’s high horse and peer down at the little people below. When I found out that there is such a thing as a portable pacifier sanitizer – a battery-operated pod that you can put your child’s pacifier in, lest it touch anything dirty – I chuckled. Who would actually buy that? I thought. With all the crap you have to lug around for a baby, I can’t imagine adding a germ-killing pacifier pod to the list. 

However, I’m a hypocrite because there’s lots of stuff I am just as worried about. I may not believe in germs, but I am an environmental health nut. That pacifier that Teddy sucks on? It cost $9, made of natural rubber with no chemicals and purchased after hours of Internet research on the dangers of plastic. We have dozens of plastic and silicone pacifiers that were gifted or handed down to us, but I faithfully search for this little rubber thing as it inevitably bounces somewhere hidden a few times a day, rather than put a plastic pacifier in Teddy’s mouth and worry about the consequences. 

Same goes for toys. A few weeks ago, I purged all his toys and made a big pile of plastic ones to give to the Salvation Army. The regulations for toy manufacturers are just too lax for my comfort, and I didn’t want to spend hours trying to research every little rattle the kid had. So, I made the decision to stick to wooden and cloth toys, mostly to save my own sanity. Don’t ask me about potential hazards in the paint on wooden toys. I have chosen not to think about it, at least for now. 

I also sent my husband out this week for a lead test kit for our porch. Even though the landlord had assured me there were no lead hazards in our apartment, I have spent too many hours reporting on lead poisoning in my job to not worry about the porch’s chipping paint. Thankfully, it is lead-free. Huge sigh of relief, as I love sitting out on that porch. 

And I had gotten tired of rinsing Teddy’s pacifier or his toys when he dropped them out there, not for germs but for potential lead dust (Just a sugar packet of lead dust distributed over a football field is enough to poison a child!!! Sound the alarm!!!)

I guess the moral of this story is that we all have our little things – the things that we absolutely care about or do not care about when it comes to life, and these only intensify when they’re applied to the tiny beings we are responsible for raising. 

So, the next time you see me at the park, don’t worry about rinsing off Teddy’s pacifier off when it inevitably falls to the ground. Unless it would make you feel better to sanitize it in the little pod you carry in your diaper bag. I don’t care in the least, but I totally understand. 

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