My niece Ashley was visiting with her 6-month-old baby, Crash.

Sue and I, like most friends and relatives of new parents, had already had that discussion before she arrived – the one about the baby’s name. It always starts with the same question: What was she thinking? Whatever happened to using Biblical names, heroic names or family names? Now it’s like there’s a contest for parents to find the most unique name possible for a newborn – like Toothbrush or Zanzibar.

And it never seems to work. By the time Crash gets to school, there will be two other Crashes, a couple of Zanzibars and three Toothbrushes, plus a few Daeneryses, Lannisters and Podricks. “Game of Thrones” will be the gift that keeps on giving, in that department. There are plenty of worse things you could name a child – say, Ebenezer or Pillowcase – but I always wonder if these children feel as good about their names as their parents do. How many of them will come back from their first day of school saying, “Gee, thanks for naming me Zanzibar, Mom! I got teased and bullied all day.”

I suppose there have always been unusual names; they simply change with the times. If Cotton Mather and Rutherford B. Hayes could live with it, so can our children.

But there’s been another development in parenting that means, from now on, children will grow up in a significantly different world. It’s hard to believe, but contrary to what parents have been saying forever, it turns out that the long-hallowed Five-Second Rule is a bunch of hooey. Apparently, despite our long-held beliefs, if you drop some food on the floor and pick it up within five seconds, it is not bacteria free! Who knew?

Actually, we all knew. At home, mom might be able to get away with picking up a piece of chicken she dropped on the floor, rinsing it off and putting it back in the pan, but would you ever go to a restaurant that adhered to that rule? Even if that restaurant was called “Mom’s”? No way.

Recently, a group of killjoy scientists released proof that it takes almost no time for bacteria to adhere to food dropped on the floor, or any other unsanitary surface. The proof is in the pudding. Literally. If you drop pudding on the floor, don’t scrape it up and eat it. No matter what your mom says.

That does not mean it will kill you, or even make you sick. It simply means it’s disgusting. Then again, it may also be healthy. Some research says that keeping children too safe from dirt and common germs makes them weaker than children who are exposed to a wide variety of bacterial contact. It turns out that a little bit of dirt may be healthy.

I bring this up because I think all of baby Crash’s food seems to come from the floor as he crawls along. Or from the dog’s dish. I suppose floor-crumbs and dog food haven’t killed the dog yet, but that’s setting a very low bar for healthy eating.

After he crawls on the floor, Crash will stick his little fingers in his mouth and suck the dirt off. Then he’ll stick every toy he has in his mouth before he does anything else with it. These are the same toys that all his tiny cousins have also stuffed in their mouths first.

Still, he seems to be an amazingly healthy 6-month-old. You can hear him screech from across the street when the mood strikes him, and he can crawl out of sight faster than you can take another Xanax. One can only imagine how healthy he’ll be once he gets into day care – sharing germs from 10 or 20 different families, exposing himself to everything that’s going around all day long. Spreading the joy of dirt.

— Contact Jim Mullen at mullen. [email protected]

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