Laugh, relax, and let kids be independent explorers
I’d invited a few moms and their kids over for lemonade. That was my first mistake—not the kids or the snacks, but the moms.
I was about to make the lemonade when my five-year-old asked if she and her friends could make it. Before I could say, “Are you nuts? There’s a time and place for germy little hands, and it’s not today,” one of the moms said, “Aw, go ahead and let them make lemonade. Just have them wash their hands first.”
Wash their hands? What good would that do? Two minutes and they’re back outside picking up disgusting things, like worm casings. Kids’ hands are surely home to all kinds of germs and things left over from the plagues of the Middle Ages. Or so I thought at the time.
But there I was, five moms staring at me, wondering what my problem was. I couldn’t let them know I had a germ problem. If it were just me and the kids, I could have easily said that the sugar jar was empty or that all the lemons had been eaten off the tree during the night by big, buck-toothed bats. The kids would have believed that. They like anything to do with bats and spit and hanging upside down. But the moms? I knew they’d ask for proof, and I couldn’t tell them the truth—that I was a card-carrying germophobe.
So I tried not to think about it as the kids ran back and forth into the kitchen getting cups of sugar and some brown stuff in a plastic jar. I think it was honey or Pine-Sol, but I was too busy trying to play it cool to investigate.
“Yes, I let my daughter make things all the time. I want her to be independent and free-spirited,” I said.
Twenty minutes later, my daughter and Kindercrew came around to the patio, chests first, pulling a sloshy wagon behind them—the same wagon that we hauled our golden retriever in, the same wagon we used as a “stove” to bake last week’s mud pies, the same wagon smeared with unidentified brown streaks from the bottom of my daughter’s sneakers.
“Mommy, this is going to be the best lemonade you ever tasted. We put secret stuff in it.”
Secret stuff? About the Pine-Sol . . . I wondered if our syrup of ipecac had expired.
My daughter handed me the first cup. “Drink it, Mommy.”
One of the moms leaned over, whispering, “Drink it, or you’ll hurt her feelings.” She must have noticed me dry heaving.
I held the cup to my lips and spotted seeds and leaves and pulp and brown specs floating in a murky muddiness.
Risking a sip of dirty lemonade is better than looking like a wimpy germ-o-freak in front of the other moms. I closed my eyes, drank about a teaspoon of the lemonade, and let it sit behind my bottom lip and my teeth, which were clenched so that I could strain out the grit.
I drank the dirty lemonade! And I didn’t get sick or die or anything like that. For the rest of the day, every time I said a word that began with a d, s, or t, my teeth crunched. But that’s a small price to pay.
Fifteen years later, my daughter still remembers making that lemonade. Her comment? “That day was so fun because I got to make something on my own.” And me? Well, I’m not so uptight about germs any more, but every time I see a little red wagon, I reach for the TUMS.