I’m a big fan of washing hands and always have been — it’s not just because Coronavirus is here and hand-washing is the cool thing to do now.
If you’ve ever tried to wash a little kid’s hands, though, you know there’s no easy way to do it. For a mom, public restrooms are especially hair-raising: you have to boost the kid up and pin her against the sink with your knee while you use your own hands to get the soap she can’t reach, all while you’re coaxing action out of the automatic faucet, and then scrubbing ten tiny fingers together before the automatic faucet turns off about two bubbles too soon. And then, while you’re trying to figure out how to dry the tiny hands, she’s making faces in the mirror and touching all kinds of grody things in the public restroom.
Indeed, about ten years into the parenting project, I would say there’s no right way to wash a little kid’s hands in a public restroom.
Washing little hands is not quite so exasperating at home, where most of the germs belong to us anyway. But, realistically, it’s still not easy. Even at home there’s still the issue of little people reaching the sink (which of course can be solved with a stool), and there’s also the possibility that the little people will run about three gallons of water down the sink each time they wash (especially a risk in our bathroom, where it takes at least a minute for the water to warm up). There’s always a lot of dripping and splashing at washing-up time and of course still the possibility that hands aren’t really getting clean… despite all the mess.
In our home, I rarely let the kids wash their hands at the sink. Instead — whether they’ve been outside playing in the dirt, or if they’re done painting, or maybe just washing up before a meal — I fill an ice cream bucket full of hot water, add a good squirt of Dawn dish soap, and I put the bucket on the floor with a clean drying towel. Eight little hands go into the water, and here is where you can really critique their hand-scrubbing style, because you don’t have to worry about three gallons of water going down the drain while you’re schooling them on wrists, between-the-fingers, under-the-nails, and so on.
And when they’re all done and dry, you can wipe up the spilled water on the floor (bonus: it’s a mini floor-scrubbing session!) and rest easy knowing that every single little finger in the house was submerged in warm, soapy water for at least a few seconds.
(Yes, I know they might be sharing germs in that bucket… but then we also share germs left on faucets and soap dispensers around here. So I’d say it’s a tie. Oh, and of course I won’t make them do this when they’re teenagers… or will I?)
© Tami Blake