It's the rainy season in California. And with the rain comes every imaginable virus that has managed to spawn from the unwashed masses over the period of the preceding year. I think that California kids are hit harder by viruses in the winter than the kids in the North Eastern tundra where I grew up. It probably has something to do with the fact that parents in California are so "laid back" (read "stupid") that they let their kids go to school in shorts and run around barefoot in the dead of Winter. And while winter here spends most of its time hovering around the 60's, it is amazing how many germs can find their way into an elementary school of foolishly underdressed and classically unhygienic kids.
As a result of the neglect of those parents around us -- I can assure you it isn't our fault; we would never send our children out into the freezing cold rain without at least a long sleeve shirt and sometimes even socks -- my kids do not manage to escape the winter unscathed. They come home with every combination of headache, fever, stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea you can imagine (for example. one kid might come home with a headache, fever and vomiting; while the next might come home with a fever, stomach ache and diarrhea; the next may have fever, stomach ache and diarrhea; and the last kid may come home with a head ache, vomiting and diarrhea; at which point the first kid comes home with stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea and the next kid comes home with . . . ok, you get the picture . . . did you really think that I was going to go through all 1082 combinations?).
Despite the rampant virus farm that lives under my roof, I usually stay pretty healthy throughout the rainy season. How do I manage to avoid getting sick with so many kids in my house all winter? I lick each of them before they go to bed at night. There's nothing better for your immune system than forced exposure to every germ in the Bay Area. Ok, I don't really lick my kids before bed, but I do often kiss them, which is pretty close. Then again, it's usually a peck on the cheek or the forehead, which is not nearly as efficient an exposure to germs as is a good solid lick under the nose. I think I'm going to start actually licking their noses before bed. Just a little insurance against what's been a particularly bad flu season.
Now that I think about it, I can tell you why parents don't usually get sick from the germs their kids bring home each day. And I think it is pretty close to licking your kids before bed. According to the international parenting handbook, the appropriate behavior at virtually all meals (and most snacks) is to finish your child's uneaten food. It's in the manual. It's what we all do. Why let a half eaten ear of corn go to waste? or a practically untouched bowl of soup? And who else is going to eat the top of the ice cream so that your kid can enjoy the cone more quickly? It is our right and it is our obligation as parents to eat our children's left over food. Until now I didn't realize that this was an evolutionary adaptation, yet clearly it is. Leftovers turn out to be a fantastic delivery mechanism for small levels of viral agents -- and more appealing than, say, eating your kids' boogers. So parents through the generations have snacked on the fetid refuse off the plates of their progeny. Next time my wife gives me a hard time about foraging on the kids partially eaten dinner plates I'm going to make clear that I can't help myself -- its in our DNA.