Shortly after my first child was born, I heard that the best house for raising a healthy child is one that is fairly well-organized, and slightly dirty. “I can do that,” I thought. I mean, that’s how my house has always been. I grew up in the immaculate house of someone still responding to years in a Japanese concentration camp, and I’ve spent my life as an adult feeling vaguely guilty therefore about the slight velvet of dust on my furniture, the dishes left overnight in my sink, and the clean laundry that somehow never gets folded. I also am fairly well-organized, despite the superficial appearance of chaos. I can get my hands on anything in my house in a matter of minutes which, to my mind, is the sign of an organized environment.
I’ve also been one of those mothers who believes in my kids getting sick. As far as I’m concerned, every cold they had at two or three years, while inconvenient to me, was a cold they wouldn’t have at seven or eight years, when school work and sports commitments make it even more inconvenient to be sick. I was therefore grateful to those who sent their kids to school with the snuffles, and I returned the favor, by sending my snuffling kids to school as well.
So, it was with some feeling of vindication that I read the following:
Here’s the conventional wisdom: Pets promote allergy, kids shouldn’t eat peanuts until they’re at least 3, and intestinal worms are nothing more than an icky reminder of life before flush toilets.
Here’s the new wisdom: Early exposure to pets, peanuts and intestinal worms might actually be good for you, because they program the developing immune system to know the difference between real threats, such as germs, and Aunt Millie’s cat.
So, as I said, I’m with that program, although I have my doubts about the worms. We just dewormed the new dog, and I can’t tell you how pleased I am not to have the visceral feeling of revulsion every time I looked at her. It just freaked me to think that she was shedding worm eggs. To have her dewormed — and to assume that my kids remain unwormed — is a great comfort to me.