Bath time with my son is not as much fun for me as it used to be.
Around my house, I have always been in charge of giving the little guy his nightly bath, especially since my wife’s back surgery. When my boy was not so active and eager to move around, bath time was a treat. He loved the warm water, the bubbles, the toys and all that went along with it. It used to be he was content to sit back and be in awe of the entire process. Everything was new to him and he just relaxed and seemed to have a blast.
In a previous column, I used the word “adore” to describe how I felt about giving my boy a bath. Well, it’s terrible to admit, but that’s no longer the case.
It’s to the point now I feel like once I put my son in the bathtub there’s an unofficial bell ringing in my ear to signify the start of a sanctioned wrestling match, which I am fairly sure I lose every night.
Although it’s not as enjoyable for me, Beckett certainly still gets a kick out of his nightly bath, which my wife and I view as the winding down portion of his day. You would not know that by how hyper he gets in the tub.
The primary concern with my son previously was his refusal to stay on his bottom in the tub. Ever since he started walked, he was focused on standing up in the tub. Finally, after months of wrestling him to his butt, he seems to have gotten the message. Taking the place of that obsession is a crazy fascination with the drain plug.
Allow me to paint the picture. He is in the tub, surrounded by water, bubbles and a few of the typical toys all toddlers seem to enjoy. Invariably, after what seems like less than a minute, he will start lunging for the drain. Since it’s an old-fashioned claw foot tub, it actually has a plug to keep the water from draining. He is obsessed with pulling it out and letting the water drain, putting it back in and letting it drain and so on. Such is the routine, if I were not there to stop it.
This fascination causes quite the frenzy. No matter how many toys I add to the tub, he will move (throw) them aside, put his face essentially in the water and try to pull the drain plug. The other night he tossed a ball out of the tub and hit me square in the face. All he needed was that one moment for me to retrieve the ball to pull the plug and let some of the water drain out. You know your kid is enjoying something when you constantly say ‘no’ and he just looks up at you, smiles, giggles and goes right back to it. I try to put a toy in front of his face to get his attention, and he just smacks it out of my hand and goes back to the drain. Oh, my little brute.
It’s gotten to the point I have developed action plans throughout the day leading up to bath time. I find myself thinking how can I keep his attention away from it tonight. He foils every one of my master plans in short time, leaving me wondering why I cannot outwit my 14-month-old in the tub.
It’s a constant battle of wills that led me to realize he has quite the stubborn streak developing. He wants at the plug and will not stop trying to get at it. The fact I will not let him at it only makes him want it more. He puts his hand on it, I pull it off, he puts the other hand on it, I pull that one off. He puts the other hand on it and I pull that off. Such is the bath routine. All the while I am trying to figure out a way to actually tend to the cleaning business. Of course, it goes without saying he has no idea that’s why he’s in there in the first place.
Once all the requisite bathing is done, I acquiesce and let him go after the plug. He squeals in delight as the water and bubbles mysteriously disappear down the drain. He’s up on both knees, butt up in a graceful pose, trying to stick his tongue down the drain, seemingly trying to discover where all the water is going. There I am with one arm around his waist, trying my best to get him back on his bottom, at the very least, with another pulling on his shoulder to keep his tongue or other appendage out of the drain. All the while he is growling and making other indescribable sounds.
Once out of the tub, the so-called fun is not over for him. For reasons that escape me now, I have gotten in the habit of letting him run around his room naked after he gets out of the tub. I think my thought was let him burn off whatever remaining energy he has before time for bed, while I recover from the bath experience. Plus, it makes me laugh, sorely needed after the stress of the bath.
What’s not funny, at least at the time, is when I try to put him in his pajamas. After running free for a bit, he wants no part of being constrained and forced to do something he has no control over. He has a total kid meltdown to cap off the wonderful experience of bathing him.
By the time I bring him back downstairs, my wife can easily determine the victor of the wrestling match that is bath time and pajama dressing. I usually am partially wet and completely disheveled, while Beckett looks and smells great and goes about the fun and games business of being a toddler.
Upon seeing her, he usually lets out a “mamama”. As I hand him over, she says, “oh, come to mama you sweet boy.” Shaking my head, I simply walk away defeated and humbled to clean up the destruction left behind upstairs. The adventures continue.