My Heart Broke When She Told Me She Didn’t Want Me Giving Her Baths Anymore
Bathtime can be a moment to bond with our babies and to battle with our toddlers. But what happens when they get old enough to request a shower? Here is one mother’s bittersweet story that is as fleeting as it is memorable.
The first bath I gave my daughter
It was short and scary, barely a few minutes before her screams and tears got the best of me. She wasn’t used to it. The floating feeling and the change in temperature were too awkward and weird. To this day, she’s still a bit cautious when it comes to new experiences.
For me, the warnings about how an infant can drown in as little as an inch of water took over my thoughts. I held her close, guarding her delicate little body as though the water was lava. I don’t think we got any soap on her. Just a dunk, really.
And then it was over.
Then from then on, the baths became longer and more extravagant with boats, ducks, whales and bubbles. At around 6 months, she was able to sit properly and hold her head up. We switched from the baby tub to the regular bathtub. She was still so small; she looked like a small flesh-colored blob dotted on a white canvas.
Threats to get in…bribes to get out
Then she hit her toddler years. It was always a struggle to get her in and a bigger struggle to get her out.
I would give her a heads up at least 15 minutes before it was bath time, reminding her like a parrot who hadn’t had her cracker fix,
“It’s almost bath time. I’m setting up the water. Remember we’re going to get you all clean.”
Setting up the bath was a no-brainer. I knew exactly how she liked her water, turning the knob just slightly passed the middle mark with my eyes closed. Throw in the toys, and her favorite washcloth and close the door to keep the steamy warmth in. Now came the hard part.
“Honey, your bath is ready.”
She would look at me as though it was her first time hearing this,
“No, mommy. I want to play. No, mommy. I don’t want a bath. No! No! No!”
Then there would be a minute of negotiations.
“Your bunny towel is in there. It’s nice and warm but not too warm just how you like it. The water is getting colder the longer you wait. It’ll only be 5 minutes. Then you can go back to playing with your toys.”
She would stare at me, arms crossed, and face frowning. Then I would give her options.
“Do you want me to give you a bath or daddy?”
And she would bark,
She would run off while I chased her around the living room. Then my patience would wear thin and I would do my countdown.
“I’m counting to five. If you’re not in the bathroom by then, I’m going to pick you up myself and drop you in the tub.”
Then came the tears, kicking and screaming as I shouted,
There she stood, in the bathroom, grumpy and miserable as though it was the worst moment of her life.
Then as soon as she got into the water, all that fuss and chaos seemed to melt away. And in there, she stayed. Until the bath water was cold. Until her hands were wrinkled like prunes. Until her hair had dried as though it hadn’t been washed.
When it came time to get her out, it was never as easy as I wanted. So bribes were my go-to.
“Come out and you can play with the iPad.”
“Come out and you can watch TV.” “
Come out and you can have ice cream.”
Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. On those days that it didn’t, I would pull her slippery little body out as though I’m delivering my own baby. She would fight me every step of the way.
“No, I don’t want to come out. It’s too cold. No, mommy! No!”
And then wrapped in her teddy towel, she would pout and softly say, “I want chocolate ice cream.”
As she sat and ate her treat, I would breathe a frustrated sigh of relief. One down, a thousand more to go.
A shower, please?
Except it wasn’t a thousand more.
One day, I was getting her bath ready with all her favourite toys, bunny washcloth and fuzzy bear towel. She’s a kindergartener now. Her life was busy with activities and social engagements. She comes inside the bathroom and says she wants to shower instead.
“Mom, it’s faster, right?”
At first, I’m angry because I had everything prepared. I didn’t want to waste a full tub of clean water going down the drain.
How many countries in this world do not have access to safe water?
Then I argue with her and try to convince her she won’t like it since the water will get in her eyes. She retorts,
“I’m used to it from swimming.”
But then I thought things through. Showers are easier, more efficient, quicker and less work for me.
Why was I upset?
I was holding onto 5 years worth of baths, frustrations, laughter, giggles, splashing, bribes, countdowns, wrinkled skin and wet sleeves. I was in denial of my daughter growing up and gaining independence.
Although she still needs a bit of my help washing the shampoo from her hair, she’s no longer a baby or a toddler. She’s my little girl who can dress herself, eat her own breakfast, set the table and share entire stories about what went on during her day. She won’t drown in an inch of water anymore. I can let go. It felt as free as it was disappointed.
So I unplugged the bathtub and reminisced as the swirling water drained into an abyss of cherished memories. I turn the water and the shower head on and tell her to hop in. After she’s done, she looks down at her toys and says,
“The next time I shower, you don’t need to get those ready. I don’t play with bath toys anymore.”
My heart ached, yearning for those bathtime battles, as stressful as they were. Motherhood is challenging and rewarding at the same time. It is the oxymoron of experiences. I feel happily sad when they need me less. I feel uncertainly certain with every parenting decision. I want to spend as much and as little time with them. I want them to grow up but I also want them to stay the same.
The days feel long but the weeks feel short. However, capturing these moments of transition and forging them into our memories allow us to appreciate the profound impact our kids have on us as we have on them.
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