Do what I say, not what I do

I’ve been working with Anya on good hand washing practices. We sing Daniel Tiger. (“If you have to go potty, stop and go right away / Flush and wash and be on your way!”) I remind her each time she uses the toilet. I make her wash her hands even when she has me wipe her. (Her latest ploy in getting out of washing her hands: “But Mommy, I didn’t wipe me! The germs are on you!”) Ultimately, though, what it comes down to is that she’s had inconsistent modeling.

Her grandparents always wash their hands after they use the bathroom, or help her use the bathroom. I always wash mine after helping her, and usually wash after using the toilet myself. (At home, I’m sometimes lax about it after peeing. I used to subscribe to Dr. Gott’s position* that it’s not medically necessary unless you get urine on your hands, and old habits die hard.) R used to never wash his hands at home, but he’s also trying to reform so we can provide a united front.

Thing is, kids never mimic the behavior you want them to.

I hit upon a stroke of genius, or so I thought. I let her pick her own hand soap. (I had been making our own, which naturally is unscented and uncolored and thus unfun.) Pink, of course. And cherry blossom scented. Her middle name is Sakura, which means cherry blossom. Plus, the stuff smells pretty good. Win, right?

Well, yes. She started washing her hands without being asked. Sometimes without even doing anything beforehand that required a hand washing. And she used plenty of soap — five or six pumps. She unfortunately isn’t as good at rinsing soap off as she is at putting soap on, so when she used half a bottle in three days, she ended up with red, chapped hands.

I banned her from soap for a day or so, and her hands are healing. But I cannot talk her into using less soap.

“Just one pump is plenty,” I insisted. “Look at all the bubbles one pump makes!”

Later, I was washing my own hands, and realized the problem: I am in the habit of using three to four pumps of soap. I’m using watered-down foaming soap,** but she of course doesn’t see the distinction. And even when I’m using the liquid soap she uses, I never stop before two pumps. In public restrooms, I use even more.

It’s ingrained, though. Even though I realize what I’m doing and want to stop, I can’t. My palm has a mind of its own, and it is not satisfied with a solitary pump of soap. So why would my daughter think it’s enough?

This sort of thing was the main reason I quit smoking. I didn’t want to wait until she was older and then have to recondition her to think cigarettes were bad. So I quit, and R switched to vaping. And now she walks around puffing on a Capri Sun straw that she calls her “mod.”

I can’t win.

*Can’t put my hands on the original article, but there’s a couple of links of the fallout for your amusement.
**The perfume in the soap I bought is far too strong for me at full strength.


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