Today, in honor of the last day of vacation, I gave my kids carte blanche to select a restaurant for lunch. After I ruled out the gastronomic mecca of McDonald’s, they opted for another establishment known for its haute cuisine: Friendly’s.Sitting at the table, watching my two-year old lick off pieces of macaroni that had fallen into her high chair from her fingers, I decided that the timing was ripe to have the swine flu talk.
I pondered whether to simply calm them by telling them it was nothing to worry about, or whether to use this as a teaching moment to reinforce the importance of personal hygiene with a little healthy fear. When I realized that my 5-year old had begun scooping up his macaroni and cheese with his fingers, I knew it was time for a little scare tactic.So I dove in. I told them that next week, after they return to school, they might hear about the sickness, this type of flu that is making a lot of people worried right now, called the swine flu. I explained that a lot of people are worried about it, probably making a bigger deal of it than they should be, but that it is still dangerous because 13 people have died from it and more will be dying from it. I then said that although is is called swine or pig flu, you don’t get it from pigs, you get it from people. And that’s when I launched into my cleanliness 101 schpiel.We covered hand washing, not touching eyes, ears, and nose, staying far away from friends who are coughing and sneezing, and throwing out tissues. I’ve never had a better audience. As soon as I finished talking, my five year old son said, “Mommy? Can I go wash my hands now?” and the other two chimed in with loud requests to wash theirs too.I marched them down to the bathroom, and we stood at the bathroom sink soaping both sides of our hands thoroughly while singing “Happy Birthday to You” twice. Then we went back to our table, still singing loudly, having kept the terrifying germs at bay, at least for now.This is an original Traveling Mom post. Vanessa Druckman blogs about cooking and parenting at Chefdruck Musings.