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To the blog!
I washed my kids’ hair Thursday night. Both kids. Right in sequence and quickly. And I actually washed it, too, as opposed to just smearing some shampoo around like I often have to do. This is big. It’s a whole new level of freedom for me, since I’ve been dancing around kid-hair since Caroline was a baby.
Let me back up. When Caroline was newborn, I read a book that said babies don’t get into routines until they’re around four months old, but that it’s a good idea to establish the routines anyway, for your own sanity, especially around bedtime. The book, Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution, also had lots of comforting stuff about how you could put the baby to bed at the same time, even if you were having to get it right back up at first and so on. Anyway, one of the routine suggestions the book gave was a nice soothing bedtime bath.
When Caroline was a little under three months old, I decided to give the routine thing a try. (And anyone who has ever had to meet me for an appointment can tell you that I don’t do routines well at all.) So I snuggled up and read Caroline a little story, then I plopped her in the tub with me. She floated contentedly on her back (with my hand under her head) for awhile before we got out, I got her dressed, and I changed her into a little bedtime onesie, read her another story and tucked her in. She was up right away, but it was only the first night. The bath was a hassle, so I made a note to skip it the next night.
Only the next night, after I read Caroline her little story and tried to change her, she screeched until I put her in the tub. In a single night, she had glommed onto a routine that I had thought was experimental. That baby loved her baths. Especially at bedtime. And, at that age, she would just float on her back, happy and relaxed. I got in the tub with her, washing various baby parts as they needed it and causing no unhappiness.
Right around the time she learned to sit up, though. Caroline got funny about her ears. She didn’t like things touching them at all. It didn’t help that she had a lot of infections, so they hurt. But she stopped enjoying that back-floating sensation and loathed having water poured on her face. Suddenly, bath time became a battle.
Naturally, my solution was to wash the child less. I mean, I never sent her out reeking to face the day, but I waited several days between screeching scrub downs. She would still play happily in the tub, but only sitting up, and as soon as she saw me coming with that shampoo, the howling would begin. I tried spritzing the water on, but mist freaked her out just as much as water dumps or dipping back. I got her a bath-hat to protect her eyes and ears. She ripped it off. And then, I hit upon the solution of brushing the water into her hair. This, she allowed.
So, from the time she was one until she learned to swim in 2009, I brushed the water into her hair, carefully lathered her up (even mild soap in her eyes was disastrous), then arduously brushed the suds out. It was time consuming and frustrating, and it only got the hair marginally clean. So when she finally learned how to dip back in the tub, my life got a whole lot easier.
Except that barely a month after she started dipping back, Sam had a bad experience with water up the nose and he stopped dipping back. So I started having to brush his hair clean. It was a no-win for me.
And washing Caroline’s increasingly long hair in the bathtub is no easy task. For one thing, she thinks she can do it herself. So if I leave the shampoo, or even the bar soap in her reach, she’ll use an entire container or bar to coat her scalp. Let’s pause to consider that last image. She will use the entire bottle of shampoo. I’ll ask “are you ready for hair?” as I head down the hall, but the scent of mango essence will hit me before the question is fully formed, and I’ll know that she’ll be completely covered in bubbles when I get in the room. I’ll have to draw her a new bath to rinse the soap out. All the while keeping her face covered with a washcloth so the soap doesn’t drip down in her eyes. Or, if she doesn’t get a whole bottle of shampoo in there, she’ll scrub in bar soap without realizing it isn’t shampoo. And that’s even harder to get out.
Once again, my solution was to wash the kids less. Often, I let them soak in the tub and clean off the rest of their bodies, skipping the hair for a day when I was filled with fortitude and parental purpose. And Sam was just as likely to transform the shampoo into bubble bath as his sister was to dump the whole thing on her head, so I couldn’t leave the stuff within five feet of the tub when either child was in it.
While all this was going on, though, Caroline was slowly discovering the shower. Last summer, we spent some time in Naples, Florida, with Mom and Kaylee. Kay loved showering off before she got in the pool down there, and after we got out of the Gulf. She got Caroline in the habit of rinsing, too. I still wasn’t allowed to wash the hair this way, and Sam still wanted nothing to do with the whole experience, but it at least made cleaning the rest of Caroline off a little easier.
And that gets us almost up to the present tense. This month, Sam has been taking swim lessons at the Y. And he has gotten comfortable with a wet face. He also spends a lot of time at the Y’s Child Watch program while I work out. Last week, he had an accident while I was in the cardio room, soaking himself with urine pretty completely. I had a change of clothes in the car, but the kid was disgusting, and I had to get him clean. I had planned my own shower anyway, so I just dragged young Oedipus in with me, breast questions and all.
To get him to quit staring at my nipples in loving fascination, I clapped a washcloth over his eyes on the justification that I didn’t want him getting shampoo in them when I washed my hair. And then he demanded that I wash his hair, too. So I did. And he loved it.
Then I bided my time until a swim lesson day when it was chilly getting out of the pool. A day like last Thursday. And I pounced, promising both cold children warm showers when they claimed they were freezing to death as soon as they left the pool. I put on my own swimsuit entirely to shower them off. And they both let me wash their hair in the YMCA locker room. It took me two minutes total for both kids’ hair. I may have to bathe my children at the Y for the next four years, but I’ll do it if it means I can keep washing them this fast. Tolkien’s hobbits may sing hey for the bath at the end of the day, but I’m cheering huzzah for the shower.