Once Upon a Time When Baths Were Fun
November 8th, 2015
I wasn’t prepared to have children.
There’s probably a deeply existential conversation to be had about whether it’s even possible to be truly “prepared” for the emotional and physical impact of parenthood, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean I wasn’t prepared for children.
As in, plural. More than one child.
I’m an only child. My childhood was pretty serene. My mother told me once that she and my dad never really baby-proofed their (gorgeous, Victorian) home because they never left me unsupervised when I was small.
That snippet of conversation comes drifting back to me frequently in moments of utter chaos. For example, as we were piling out of the van at church last Sunday, Miss Mouse dropped her last remaining fruit snack onto the ground. This would have been traumatic enough, but Kung Fu Panda immediately swooped in, snatched the dirt-encrusted gummy shape off the ground, stuck it in his mouth, and (wisely) took off running.
My firstborn screamed like a banshee and gave chase, shrieking and attempting to kick her brother while he fled. In the process, she accidentally body-checked Birdie (who was tottering along in a pair of Snow White high heeled sandals), knocking her into a mud puddle and prompting immediate and enduring hysterics because her pants were wet.
Somebody please tell me where to find the parenting book that prepares you for moments like THAT.
Then there’s bath time. I used to love bath time. When Miss Mouse was a baby, my husband and I bathed her together, often spending half an hour or more on the event, which involved squirty toys, funny washcloth mitts, and waterproof books. We have multiple adorable videos of her blowing raspberries in the tub and photographs of her hair styled into a bubble-covered mohawk. Elaborate readings of Sandra Boynton’s “Bath Time” were a non-negotiable part of the nightly routine.
These days, I don’t much like baths. It’s just not that fun anymore. Bathing three kids is a huge production. Splashing around with toys for twenty minutes is fun once. Doing it three times? Not fun. Just exhausting. Not to mention time-consuming.
What’s that? Bathe them together? That’ll be fun, right? Lord have mercy, no. When you put multiple kids in the tub together, fights break out, tsunamis crash over the sides and onto the floor, soap gets in people’s eyes (mine, usually), the toddler gets knocked over, and someone is always – ALWAYS – accused of peeing in the tub. (Whether or not there is grounds for these claims is something I prefer not to dwell on.)
Even when it’s just two in the tub, it’s pretty rowdy. I tried all three once. ONCE.
No, nothing I read, heard, or experienced prepared me for the reality of life as a mother of three. It’s not a particularly relaxing existence, but it has its moments. On weekend mornings, all my offspring pile into my bed to snuggle for a few minutes before we start the day and I get three times as many hugs and kisses. My kids play together (except when they hate each other) and this morning, I saw Miss Mouse helping Birdie put her shoes on.
The shoes didn’t match and they were on the wrong feet, but one should never look a gift horse in the mouth.
This post originally appeared in the November 1 edition of our SmallTownUSA newspaper.