When I was in HS one of the chassidish teachers told us that during the 9 days, you're not allowed to shower, and that you're only allowed to take sponge baths. Us girls were extremely grossed out, decided that no matter how frum we become later on in life, we'll still never keep the no-showering for 9 days thing. And then our next teacher came, and told us that not only are we allowed to shower, but since we're single and female, we're encouraged to shower. She said that we just have to make sure not to overheat the water, and she basically spelled out the rules. So we were happy, and felt extremely relaxed, considering that we WERE allowed to shower.
Years later I went to visit a camp for a couple of weeks, and one of the girls said that she was allowed to take hot showers, because she normally took cool showers, so for her, it was a bit of a discomfort to take a hot shower. She made all the girls jealous. And I just sat quietly in the corner thinking, "its the middle of the summer, we don't have air conditioning, its not the end of the world to take a cool shower." And so it dawned on me, that modern times do not exactly promote the "we forget the temple doesn't exist" type of a lifestyle, even on the 9 days.
For example. We have air conditioning. So if you don't take the greatest shower, you're still relatively clean, because you're not sweating nearly as much as you would 100 years ago. Secondly, the 9-day menu's at the restuarants don't necessarily make you forget about meat. Don't get me wrong, I LOOVE my meat. But I can definitly give it up and head over to one of the many delicious milchig cafes for the weekly meal I have out. Heck, going to Renaissance Cafe is a treat in most cases. Have any of you tried their Filet of Sole with Almond sauce (if you haven't you should do so!!)? Thirdly, the whole "not wearing clean clothes" thing is a joke. Its not like your clothes is literally dirty, its just stepped on, by your own clean feet, on your clean floor, OR was worn on top of your clean clothes for what, 5 minutes? It still smells fresh when you do wear it.
This whole 9 day hype thing is annoying. You either make yourself uncomfortable or stop pretending too. OR, just teach your kids that the fact that there is war, constant fear of danger, and anti-semitism. These are everyday signs of galus and your kids will understand. To fake out for 9 days is a joke. Especially these days.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for keeping 9 days, its tradition, and its good for us to have days set aside to remind us of our galus. But to kid ourselves into thinking that we're really suffering during the 9 days, is something that should be discouraged.