Friday, August 6, 2010

Making Peace With Water Fountains

Does anyone with contamination obsessions use water fountains? Do you let your children? The pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital where I trained dropped this seed in the fertile soil of my OCD brain. Ever since she talked about how germy they are, I've avoided them and wanted my children to avoid them also.

As a mom with a lot of OCD recovery, I try hard to make peace with some of my obsessions so that I don't pass on this kind of neurosis to my children. I figure they are already genetically primed, let's not make it more likely. I realized however, that every time my daughter went to drink from a water fountain, I cautioned her against it. She didn't like that, and would sneak away to drink, despite how I felt. I don't want to argue with my kids about things like this.

When we were flying home from our recent trip she snuck off to a water fountain right after I told her not to. I was through. I decided to make peace with my daughter's decision to drink from them. I explained to her that I was going to let her make her own decisions about them. I explained why I don't like them, but that I was backing off. If she wants to drink from them, it is up to her (she is eight years old).

I decided to use my AA training of "not running the show"and take a spiritual approach to "Let Go and Let God". My daughter has her own "Higher Power" and I am not it. These are common 12 Step approaches to accepting things we cannot control. On a cognitive level I realized that as my children get older, I need to relinquish control over their exposure to "risks" in the environment. I'd rather they get some community illnesses than grow up with a neurotic mother.


  1. I think it's great that you are letting your children make their own decisions and take their own risks when it comes to things like this. That said, I can't help but mention a TV show segment I saw a while back comparing the dirtiness of water fountains and other places we regularly get water from. On this show they performed a little mini-experiment: they took samples from water fountains and other places like office water coolers, and cultured the bacteria they collected from these sources. As it turns out, water fountains were quite a bit less germy than your average office water cooler. That said, I don't think we should stop drinking out of water coolers, either! It just goes to show that sometimes the most germy places aren't where we would assume they would be!

  2. Good for you, giving your daughter some space to make her own choices. That is one of the hardest things to do! Good luck, and keep it up. :)

  3. I do use water fountains every so often, although I cringe a little as I do. I once watched a homeless guy bathe in a continuously running fountain near where I work (but don't worry, that would be really tricky to attempt with a standard water fountain!)

    But I did drink out of it later as an exposure, and I lived to tell the tale!

  4. Water fountains are something I'd rather not think about too much, but if I'm really thirsty, then I am glad when I see one. That's cool you were able to let it go, and let your daughter decide what to do. I think when I find something icky, it's a visceral feeling, and unpleasant, but if my ocd isn't involved, I can move on. If it's something my ocd latches onto, then it's much harder, and I suspect that a lot of the time I don't really know what is truly dangerous, and that is the human condition.

  5. Kudos to you. Taking that step back to allow your kids space is sometimes sooo hard. Working in the health profession we see things that are such fertile soil for potential worries. I totally understand how this is a big issue.
    All of my siblings and myself experienced preventable life threatening events as children, and I found my self hounded by neurosis while my child was smaller. However, there is sometimes a fine line between OCD and being a responsible parent. Hang in there! Thanks for sharing.