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Cleaning Up This Act Could Be Difficult!: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

By Sylvia Rimm

Q. My three grandchildren (ages 18, 13 and 10) are intelligent, good students with musical and athletic talent. Their parents provide a loving, stable environment and stress family and religious values. However, their home is filthy! Since birth, the children have suffered from frequent episodes of vomiting, diarrhea and allergic reactions, and I suspect food poisoning and mold allergy are causes. Their mom is a stay-at-home mom who drives them from one lesson or event to another.

Despite having a dishwasher, dirty dishes are always piled on counters and fill the sink. Food is often left on the counters. I've seen a roasted turkey left there, and family members just break meat off with their hands to eat on the go or while watching TV. The dining table is always buried with junk and seldom accessible for meals. They're given junk food all day, so they're never hungry at mealtime. My bright, talented grandson has always looked skeletal, and he's been unwilling to even try nutritious food when he visits me.

The bathroom is covered with black mold. My granddaughter once told me that they don't use the tub because then "Mom would have to clean it." The toilet is completely black inside and appears never to have been cleaned. The sink and toothbrush holders are disgusting.

It's a small home filled with sentimental collections of never-dusted clutter. They have several inside and outside pets. They didn't own a vacuum cleaner until I gave them one, and it doesn't appear that it's been used since.

I can't believe that my son does nothing to improve the squalid conditions. He works long hours and is always stressed and exhausted. I'm positive that if I ever voiced my concern, he'd take offense and turn his wife against me (shoot the messenger).

Will my grandchildren perpetuate this by keeping dirty houses? They all seem oblivious. Help! -- Silent Witness

A. Dear Silent Witness: If your description of your son's home is accurate, it could be a health risk and you should not remain silent, but talk to your son. You could start with positive statements about their children, telling your son what a good job they're doing parenting, in so many ways. Then add that you're really worried about the children's health being related to the cleanliness and care of food in the house. Bring some magazine articles to leave with him about mold allergy and food poisoning. You could search the Internet for helpful information. Finally, add that you don't want these comments to hurt him or your daughter-in-law, but that you felt like you at least needed to share your worries because you love them all very much.

You may actually find that your son is glad to hear you agree with him, because that may be part of the reason he works so many long hours and is always stressed.

Even a slight improvement can make a difference in the children's health. As to their future, parents are important role models for their children, so it's possible that the children will continue this unhealthy tradition. However, if the parents disagree about the sloppiness, at least one child is likely to emerge to cleanliness. Also, the children are exposed to other homes, so it's possible they'll improve upon the present condition when they grow up.

Considering all your grandchildren's other wonderful qualities, you have much to be thankful for. Invite them to your home whenever you can, and enjoy their company without lectures. That will give them plenty of opportunity to observe that homes can be clean and food can be healthful. They might even enjoy a bath in your clean tub.


Categories: Advice, Ideas & Stories, Family, MomShare,

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