Mother confession: my children are not bathed on a daily basis. Not even close. Don’t ask how often I bathe them. Because I will lie. Honestly, I have never understood parents who say that they give their children a bath each night as part of a “winding down before bed” routine. Really? So, do your children find screaming at the top of their lungs, “I WILL NOT TAKE A BATH!” relaxing? Mmm. Interesting. Then our children must be different.
Sure, our four-year-old (Jacob) and one-year-old (Emma) have stretches in which they seem to enjoy their baths. And, yes, during these stretches (which occur for a few weeks around the various equinoxes) they are squeaky clean on a daily (okay, FINE, almost daily) basis. And then there is the rest of the year. For the rest of the year, they take one look at the nice warm tub of bathwater filled with brightly colored bath toys, mistake it for a bubbling cauldron of witch’s brew and respond accordingly. In case you are one of those bath-every-night-while-my-child-reenacts-the-Calgon-commercial parents and don’t know what I’m talking about, this involves a lot of high pitched screeching and flailing.
After a while, Dan and I get worn down. And conveniently “forget” which night is supposed to be bath night. And this forgetting sometimes lasts. For days. When this happens, I like to use the following reframe. We’re not being lazy parents, we’re just being (wait for it, wait for it . . .) EUROPEAN. That’s right. We are just taking a more SOPHISTICATED (international?) approach to hygiene. Like they do in Paris. Or Brussels. Or Rome. Maybe it’s a myth that the Europeans aren’t as obsessed with bathing as Americans. If so, I don’t want to know. Hush, hush. I’m going to my happy place with my Europeanly clean children. And NO, that is not dirt on Jacob’s knees that is too entrenched to be scrubbed off. It’s a very localized tan. Happy place, happy place.
Anyway, even when my children ARE clean, I have learned that it is pointless to send them to daycare or preschool this way. Sure, I can send them off in the morning all washed and brushed, and combed and ironed and all of that. But even if I do, they will be returned to me a rumpled mess, covered in finger paint, smooshed bananas and dirt. Do you think that preschool teachers and daycare providers have time to focus on whether my children are getting dirty? Their job is to keep an army of kids alive and happy over the course of a day. That pureed-carrot-Jackson-Pollock on my baby’s onesie is just part of the collateral damage. Anyway, I have decided that if my children are going to look like Pig Pen by the end of the day, sending them to school clean in the morning is just a sucker move.
All that said, I do, of course, make sure that my children’s hands are washed before they eat . . . but should I? It occurs to me that whatever I am washing off is probably something that they intentionally put in their mouths five minutes ago while I was busy looking at a text message. (Coincidentally, the only texts I ever get are from Dan- about dinner.) But it’s okay. Everyone eats a bag of dirt in their lifetime, right? My kids are just getting a head start. (Precocious little cherubs.) And, why shouldn’t I give my children the opportunity to build their immune systems?
While we’re discussing hygiene, we can’t forget about all those tiny little finger nails and toe nails that constantly need to be trimmed. I have come to the conclusion that it is simply impossible to do this when your child is between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Before the age of 6 months you may be able to get the job done while the baby is nursing, slurping a bottle, asleep or otherwise distracted. Once they are old enough to realize that the fingers and toes that you are approaching with a sharp object are attached to the rest of their body, you are out of luck. If your child does not want his or her nails trimmed, it is not going to happen. Which is unfortunate, because baby nails grow at approximately 57 times the rate of adult nails. And always at jagged angles.
Emma is now over one year old and when she sees the nail scissors coming, she knows that the impending activity will prevent her from using her hands for something far more important. Like grabbing fistfuls of my hair. And she wants no part of it. I can’t explain why the will of an adult cannot override the will of a one-year-old in this situation but I’m telling you the baby always wins out. ALWAYS. She squirms around and I am paralyzed by the fear that I might impale her with those little nail scissors. So I inevitably give in. Exasperated by this, a few days ago, I said to Dan, “WHY is it that I can’t ever cut her nails? She’s a baby! I should be able to do this . . .”
“I know,” Dan replied, “. . . but it’s impossible. Because she has these really long, sharp nails . . .” Nuff said.