I am constantly dealing with a particularly difficult parenting issue that I never hear anyone else talk about. I am forced to wonder, therefore, if we are the only ones who are experiencing this — and that gives me hope that perhaps there is an obvious solution to this problem that I am missing. The problem, of course, is toothbrush hygiene.
Traditionally, the unavoidable task of brushing takes place in the bathroom. This makes sense, considering the convenient access to tap, sink, and handy sink-side cup. Besides, where else would we brush? The kitchen? No thanks, I spend enough time there. And my kids spitting in that sink? Just no.
But I wonder: When you find your child’s toothbrush behind the toilet, is it better to rinse it under hot water and use it again, or to get that kid to use her sister’s toothbrush that day? What if that’s where you find it almost every day? How about if you see your toddler walking around with someone else’s toothbrush in her mouth? Or using it to “clean” the bathroom walls? What then? When a toothbrush falls IN the toilet, it’s obviously time to replace it, but what if it falls in the bathtub while someone is bathing? And if the toothpaste is all over the outside of the tube, can you scrape it off with the brush and get your child (who caused this problem in the first place, by the way) to brush with that, or should you just cut your losses and clean the now-almost-empty tube?
This constant struggle should probably bother me more than it does considering how often I find my tag-team-tiring toddlers sitting on the bathroom counter with their feet in the sink, two toothbrushes in their mouths and the rest strewn about on the floor. But I fear that I am not personally equipped to handle this problem very well. You see, I come from a long history of toothbrush hygiene deficiency. I’ll tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean.
Once, when I was a teenager, my sister came home from University for the summer. Usually we had a house full of people, but for these few months it was just the two of us living on the top floor of my parents’ house. We’d been cheerfully co-existing for several weeks when one evening we found ourselves in the bathroom getting ready for bed at the same time. We soon found ourselves simultaneously reaching for the mug full of toothbrushes. And I mean FULL of toothbrushes. There were probably fifteen of them in there, even though there were only two of us using that bathroom at the time. Suddenly, at the same moment, we realized that we were not only reaching for the same mug of toothbrushes, we were reaching for the exact same toothbrush. Then, in unison, we pulled our hands away and muttered, “Sorry.” Followed by, “Wait. What?”
Because we had both just realized that not only had we been using the same toothbrush for weeks, we had been using the same toothbrush for weeks AND IT DIDN’T BELONG TO EITHER OF US. It was an all-time low on the toothbrush-disgustingness scale.
This is the legacy my children are facing, so clearly I can’t trust my own judgement with this Issue. When it comes to toothbrush hygiene, my children are officially care-free and totally disgusting. But this may be one of those things that is simply not their fault. After all, you just can’t fight genetics.