Of late, giving my son a bath is one of the highlights of my day.
Bath time is typically my department around the house. After my wife has cared for our boy for much, if not all, of the day, the least I can do is give her some free time to work out, read, get out of the house or do absolutely nothing if she chooses. Plus, there’s no better bonding opportunity than stripping my boy down to his birthday suit and getting him nice and clean.
At one time, Beckett loathed baths. It was a traumatic thing every night for a couple weeks, featuring lots of crying and squirming. It was basically a nightmare. Somewhere along the way, he realized there was nothing to get upset about, and it became fun, making it a nightly adventure for me as well.
There’s something about the water, toys and the scene all around that gets him extremely excited. When he gets keyed up these days, his sounds resemble high-pitched screams and shouts, compared to just a couple months ago when they were little coos, oohs and ahhs. That sweet little baby is growing into an active boy with lots of energy and enthusiasm. A personality seems to be developing, and bath time is a good place to see its goofy side in all its glory.
Despite not turning six months until next week, he seems to already be familiar with the nightly routine and understands between 7 and 8 at night a bath is coming. That’s when the excitement begins, the eyes get wide with anticipation, the hands start playing with the feet and those strange sounds begin to be heard. As much as I want to hear something starting with a “d”, most of the noises coming from him in these fits of excitement begin and end with a vowel, such as “agggga” or “eehhhe”, mostly just indistinguishable babble, which continues for most of the bath except at the very beginning.
Once that initial reaction of wide-eyed shock of entering the water has come and gone, it’s all fun and games. That first look of bewilderment awaits assurance from me that he’s okay. His pupils dilate and nothing registers for a couple seconds as he adapts and gets a “you’re fine” and “it’s okay”. After a few minutes, he realizes all is good and that’s usually when he gets comfortable and starts kicking the legs and flailing the arms with wild abandon, splashing water all over himself and me. The more splashing the better, it seems.
As the warm water first engulfs and relaxes him, I have learned to be attentive. How should I say this tastefully? Let’s just say there’s a rocket launch soon after the warm water registers and it’s wise to keep your distance. I recall fondly how proud I was the first time he started to get some height on his “launch”. There was a good two feet of arc and that was a proud daddy moment. These so-called rocket launches aren’t exactly rare around the house, but the tub is the one place it can be free from cover, allowing for a little height analysis from dad, but enough said there. Geez.
Since there’s not a lot to wash these days, bath time does not take much time. He only weighs about 17 pounds and measures just over two feet, so there’s not a lot of area to cover, and it can be done pretty quickly. More time is spent playing than on the job at hand. His big discovery these days is the rubber duck (just happens to be green by coincidence), which he likes to have floating around him. He enjoys getting his little hands on it and pushing it in his mouth. Its head always seems to get in there, and he’s still learning the whole concept of gagging himself. He sticks the duck’s head in as far as it can go, only to discover it can go just so far. My job is to pull it out of his hand before it gets to his mouth and place it a few feet away from him so the routine can be repeated.
Along with the cute little duck, his favorite thing at this point is kicking. Those chubby little legs pack a punch and water goes everywhere. He can be a little menace in his small tub, which sits inside the large tub. Soon he will outgrow this little tub and be in the big tub. At this point, it’s nice keeping him in a smaller, constrained area because he’s beginning to be a little tough to contain. For example, he seems to want to roll over in the tub, and that’s certainly not the place to practice his latest feat.
For whatever reason, probably curiosity, his tongue is often out in the bathtub. He likes to try and drink the water (and eat the hand towel), but we know that’s not good for him at this young age so keeping the water out of his mouth is a challenge. Once he gets the picture he cannot drink the water, he usually latches on to the nearest finger or arm and sucks and chews on that for a bit.
Drying off is a lot of fun for him and me as well. I like to get his blonde hair to stick straight up and he seems to enjoy it, too. He especially enjoys pulling the towel up over his face and playing the old peek-a-boo game, of which I am a fan. All the while, those strange vowel sounds continue to fill the house.
Perhaps the best part of the bath is the post relaxation. A popular item on the bath market these days is Johnson and Johnson’s bedtime wash. It’s not new or anything, just novel to our life. There’s something special in this stuff that makes him extremely tired afterwards. It’s almost as if it’s laced with NyQuil for babies. Whatever the secret ingredient, it works like magic because about a half hour after being dried off he’s looking exhausted, smelling wonderful, like lavender soap, and ready for bed. The same usually goes for me.