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Mommy's Little Neat Freak

I never thought I’d say this, but my daughter is too concerned with cleanliness, and it’s driving me crazy.

I think the first time we noticed it was during our beach vacation. Maddie had just turned 15 months and been eating solid foods for a long time, and while she never had a spontaneous one-baby food fight, she certainly didn’t seem bothered by the excess pureed blueberries smeared across her face. And while she had never really had a chance to get down and dirty in, say, a mud puddle, she seemed to enjoy finger paints as much as the next child.

vacation_sept_06_059_1.jpgBut when Maddie came in contact with sand, she freaked out. Setting aside the whole trauma of a ground that shifts beneath your feet, she had to deal with a walking surface that STICKS TO YOU NO MATTER WHAT! Madeleine would put her hand in the sand, pull back with a sandy imprint all over her palm, and hold the offending appendage out to me, saying imploringly, “Hand!”

We ended up putting a bucket of water near “her” corner of the beach mat; she’d hang out on the edge, staying cleanly on the mat, and putter tentatively in the sand. Every few minutes she’d plunge her hand into the bucket to clean up, then head back to her game. Walking on the sand wasn’t much better; she’d resolutely ignore it as long as possible, then dash for a safe puddle to wash off in when she couldn’t bear it any longer.

vacation_sept_06_116.jpgMaddie’s favorite part of any beach visit? The clean-up time afterwards at the boardwalk faucet.

Ever since then, my daughter’s been particularly fastidious about herself. Coloring with chalk on the sidewalk means sixty seconds of coloring, sixty seconds of hand wiping on a damp cloth, and repeat. Endlessly.

And of course it was simply a matter of time before this compulsion transferred to her eating habits. I think one of the things that motivated her to learn how to use a fork and spoon was her distaste of getting food all over her hands. While she still eats some foods with her bare hands, she’ll periodically stop, hold out the hands, and issue the “Mama! Hands!” plea.

And in the ultimate chart-topper, she can’t stand to have her bib get dirty. My kid will shove a double-high load of oatmeal into her mouth with a spoon, and be surprised when it doesn’t all fit in. Some falls into her bib’s crumb-catcher, while she manages to shove the rest into her mouth with her hands. Dirty hands safely cleaned a few seconds later, she’ll look down and notice the oatmeal below. “Uh-oh.” She’ll say. Just that. Over and over, staring into the pocket, until I reach in and clean it out. Satisfied, she’ll return to her meal.

Keep in mind, this is the kid that will happily slither down a soggy, mud-daubed slide, smearing dirt all over her butt.

I guess out of sight is out of mind.


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