We are coming to the end of an era.
For as long as there has been DorkySon, there has been family bath time. It is the most set-in-stone part of our routine.
Regardless of what has happened during the day, we always take a bath before bed. No matter what country we’re in, whose house we’re staying at or how long a flight we’ve just stepped off; it is the family ritual that grounds us. Whatever time zone our brains believe themselves to be in, the sound of a bath filling up means that bedtime is not far away.
DorkyDad does most of the baths with DorkySon. By ‘most’ I mean all. And by ‘does’ I mean he’s right in there, in the water. For a few weeks, we tried to do baby baths the traditional way. We held our wailing newborn boy in a wee plastic tub, three inches of tepid water in the bottom. We sponged and we soaped, we sang soothing lullabies, but DorkySon was having none of it. He knew he was missing out on something better.
And so they moved to the big bath, and they both got in. Warmer water, fluffier bubbles, shiny taps and plugs to play with. DorkySon was still small enough to curl in the curve of his Dad’s elbow, and he lay there, content in that safe little space. Boy time was born, and it quickly became sacred.
Boy time – or bath time – has always been a chance to examine freckles and lengthening limbs, the progress of scratches and dry skin patches. It has allowed a sneaky peek behind the ears, to see if we’ve succumbed to the latest round of nursery nits. Do nails need clipping, or fringes snipping? Bathtime will always tell.
But it has also been a time of reflection. A place for the two DorkyBoys to compare notes and chat about the day’s events. A time for DorkySon to ask the questions that have been keeping him awake at night. Who invented mountains? What’s the oldest age a person can live to be? How many airlines own A380s? How come the angles of a triangle are so pretty and perfect? He and his Dad lie there every night and chat, letting their muscles soak and their worries wash away.
My role has evolved over time. In the earliest days, I would sit on the floor, handing over shampoo or sponges as required. Then for a spell, when I had DorkySon at home by myself full time, I took those ten blissful minutes to sit somewhere else in silence. These days I’m called through to adjudicate in the occasional argument, or to examine a new bruise… but mostly I just hover nearby, looking out clean pyjamas, straightening sheets. I stand ready with a warm towel when it’s needed.
When DorkyDad is away travelling – as he is tonight – I take over bath time duties, and it always surprises me how much has changed. It’s a squeeze now. DorkySon is no longer a soft, round thing. He has pokey knees and sharp elbows. He fidgets, and squirms, and likes to stretch out – his long lion’s mane floating around his face. Somehow we always find a way to make it work.
But there are changes coming now, they are blowing in on the spring breeze. Just in the last few weeks, he has started to ask for time to himself before getting out. He would like a little privacy, please.
I am delighted.
Sometimes he likes to spend that time putting on a show. He sings the songs he has learned at kinder, like Pearly Shells (Aloha!), or Crabs and Seashells. He sings the ones he has heard in the house, like Yellow Submarine, and Octopus’s Garden. The current favourite is Singing in the Rain (“You won’t have heard this one before, Mummy…”). He does all the actions, with gusto.
Sometimes he will don his blue and green goggles, and make me count how long he can hold his breath for underwater. He will show me that he can float on his back, and will happily flood the bathroom, demonstrating how well he can kick.
Other times he likes to be alone, without even a plastic penguin for company. He conducts experiments with empty bottles. He sees what happens when you mix shampoo and conditioner and toothpaste and moisturiser. No wonder that the latest bedtime reading pick is George’s Marvellous Medicine. He turns a Tupperware tub into a submarine. He learns about floating and sinking, about bubbles and waves and volume, about the different noises water can make.
Like so many things – like sleep and socialising and pulling on socks – bath time is starting to become a more solitary activity. A little bit of all of us, and a little bit of just him. DorkySon is telling us in his own quiet way that for now he’s happy to share, but one day he wants to do the whole thing himself.
That is fine. DorkyDad will find some other place for chat. And I’ll be right outside the door, warm towel waiting
This is lovely! So sweet!
And before you know it he’ll be standing in the shower and locking the door!
It’s sad when you see one tradition ending. And the baby begins to disappear before your very eyes. But his confidence and independence comes from you. Lovely post Ruth – as always x
What a lovely post. Z likes to bath or shower alone, with his toys. I used to be in there with him, passing toys, submerging submarines etc but he asks me to leave now. I hover nearby and am there with a warm towel when he is ready to get out. When he’s in his PJs and ready for bed, P goes in for a chat and a story. They lie back on the bed together and Z asks all the questions on his mind, then they read for a bit and then it is time for me to come in for a last cuddle before sleep. Many occasions I have walked in to find them both tucked up together, sleeping soundly. It’s lovely, as is this post xx
As they move away, I think they drift closer. When they are smaller they take you for granted, a given. As they get bigger they view you with different eyes. Sometimes, they tell you they don’t like you but mostly, I think as they seek more time on their own, more independence, they see you differently, you are not a given, they appreciate you more, with more depth.
(oh my gosh! the shows! – big show lover here).
“I can do it by myself” As a parent, that is our goal… but it is never easy to hear. Though we feel pride and accomplishment every time we hear those little words they also signal and ending and a change. Much love Mum ❤
What a gorgeous post…. it’s great that he can ask for time alone. Little A is the same, and she often likes time to herself in the bath (and it tends to be me bathing with her on the odd occasion – she likes the whole tub to herself these days). X
Sounds like a lovely family ritual to have had 🙂
I hear you about the little shallow baby baths… we lived on a farm when my two were babies and I liked to bath them in drinking water (the big tank had to be refilled with river/dam water in summer). So I got a big round laundry tub and would fill it half full of lovely warm water for them to float in when they were tiny. No yelling or screaming, they loved it. Once, my daughter actually fell asleep! Later, they would sit in it with their feet braced against the other side and there would be lots of splashing around and throwing out of toys. They’d have their bath in front of the fire in winter, with a big towel on the floor to soak up the spills. They had to wait until they were quite clear about ‘not drinking the water’ before they graduated to the big people shower!
Right now, with my son still clinging constantly to my leg, following me into every room, waking up in the night crying for me, I can’t imagine being asked for more privacy. But if I look closely there are signs: five minutes of playing on his own here, an entire night spent in his own bed there. I thought I’d be thrilled about this, this burgeoning independence, but the fact that this beautiful post has made me a little tearful probably suggests otherwise!
I can remember my first bath on my own i was nearly 12! Me and my younger sister always shared before that and I was so looking forward to a bath on my own! When I finally did it was actually quite lonely and strange.
I used to love bath time, but we now live in a house with only showers – reading your blog reminded me how much I used to enjoy sitting with my boys!
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Mia was like this when she reached almost 4.I too would be outside the door in case she needed me, which never did.I miss bathing them mine all in one go, but having an older boy it become inappropriate for him to bath with his younger sisters.Then the girls would fight together and so bath time becomes a very long process with the 3 of them.
Such a beautifully crafted piece. And so poignant, too. As much as it is fun to see him grow, and how happy it makes you, there must be some part that wants to hold on. Both you and DorkyDad, I assume.
So sweet! I have been lamenting to my friends about how I can’t ever get my daughter clean without nursing her in the tub while sneaking in some scrubbing. I guess soon enough she’ll be washing herself, so I’m going to try to savor the moment (but I do love a long solitary bath!).