On Being a Clean Freak
I was raised to be exceptionally aware of cleanliness. Clean clothes, clean hands, clean hair, clean nails, clean everything. Not a hair out of line. No sitting on the grass because your pants will get dusty. No picking your nose and flick it on the floor. No baby crawling on the patio floor or soil because it's dirty. Make sense, since the country where I was raised wasn't really clean anyway, at least while I was growing up. Muddy roads, smelly air, dusty air. You could be cleaning your floor in the morning and ended up with a dirty feel on your floor at the end of the day. All that caused my family to be quite ... clean freak. That, plus Asian parents, in general, tend to be more physically protective when it comes to their children. I'm not talking about ALL Asian parents, but I know quite a number of Asian parents who got really worried when their children are playing rough and came home dirty. I was one of those parents.
Until one day, when I enrolled my eldest into kindergarten and started to hang out with Caucasian parents. At the beginning, I was experiencing what you may call culture shock, perhaps. Kids, shouting, running around barefooted! Babies, crawling on the dirty patio floor and drank the water from the dog's drinking bowl by mistake! Clothes got wet and muddy and no one was batting an eyelid. I wasn't kidding when I said I was shocked! And I wasn't the neatest and the cleanest in the family (apparently my great grandmother used to place a pinch of rice grains to see if anyone realised it and cleaned it up. The ultimate test for a clean floor).
But I also saw how happy and confident they were. How strong and healthy. So I learnt to let go of my worry and my exasperation and let my kids just had fun. And the first time I did so, I might have shocked my family, too. Haha, that was fun! But I still freaked out whenever my kids come home with dirty clothes, perhaps because I was simply lazy? Nobody likes extra laundry, after all.
PS. I'm pleased to report that now I'm able to watch my kids run around barefooted, with sandy hair and clothes wet and muddy without batting my eyelids. But I still reserve the rights to complain. At least to make them aware that laundry does take a lot of energy to do.