Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Throw Out The Baby with the Bathwater!

When I was a kid, my brother, sister, and I had "bath night". One night a week. It was usually on Wednesday because that's when The Dukes of Hazzard was on TV. My dad (he raised us) would fill the tub, set my little brother up with a snack in front of the TV - where he'd be glued until the last "YEE-HAW! - and my sister and I would go first. By the time he wrangled us into the tub, scrubbed us, and managed to wash and rinse both of our heads of hair (Against our "EEEK! Don't get it in my eyes!!!" protests), the TV show would be over. He didn't drain the water and re-fill the tub for my brother. He'd just add a little hot water to warm it up and it would be his turn yell about soap in his eyes. I was able to watch my sister while my brother, who absolutely hated baths, screamed like a banshee the entire time he was in the tub. No wonder we only got one bath a week!

I've been thinking about this lately because my kids have always had 2 - 3 baths a week until recently - my oldest MUST take a shower daily and Little Guy has been cut back to once a week. I think the new schedule for my oldest is pretty much self-explanatory to anyone who has had a teen boy in their home for more than a week! As for Little Guy, there were a couple of reasons for my changing things up.

First, we're cutting down on our water usage and baths take a lot of water. Next, he really doesn't get that dirty. I mean, he is covered by clothes most of the time, it's cold out so he's not sweating like crazy, and the dirtiest parts of him get washed many times a day - hands and face. In the summertime, he tends to get dirtier, but with his regular rinse-offs in the wading pool and sprinkler, a quick towel-off at the end of the day usually does the trick. If he happens to get extra-dirty one day, he can take a quick shower with me.

Finally, it's just easier. In my experience, many children have some fear of baths when they are around 18 months to 2 years old. Little Guy passed this stage with absolutely no problems. In fact, he used to smell his armpits and declare, "Ooo! I'm stinky and dirty! I sure need a bath." in hopes that we'd fill the tub. Sometimes he'd do this multiple times a day. But, recently, he's become afraid. I blame my husband for both of his fears: 1) The monster who lives in the drain, and 2) Getting shampoo in his eyes. Yep. He did it - he told Little Guy that there is a monster in the drain. He only had to say it out loud one time, during a very trying bath time where Little Guy kept jamming his entire hand down the drain. He was so afraid that his hand would get stuck and had tried everything else. It was one of those stupid things you say as a last resort and regret it even as the words are coming out of your mouth. I cannot get Little Guy to believe that Daddy was joking - he's scared!
Before the fears set in...

As for the shampoo... Little Guy used to love having water poured over his head. This made washing his hair the funnest part of giving him a bath. Then, one day, my husband couldn't find Little Guy's shampoo and decided to use the cold-process soap (yeah, the stuff that's made with lye) on his hair. The soap got into his eyes and burned and burned. Now, getting his hair washed is a nightmare. He kicks and screams and splashes. I had to go back to using tear-free shampoos because he squirms around so much that it's impossible to keep his eyes shampoo-free. Our city's use of chlorine in the water isn't helping matters - the water stings my eyes when I shower! His hair gets washed only when it loses its curl and starts looking dirty - I cannot see why I should wrestle him down once a week to clean mostly-clean hair.

So, due to Little Guy's bath strike and my oldest's need to take more showers, I've just been thinking a lot about bathing. Especially bathing throughout history. I remember reading that, in the western US, when pioneers were just beginning to settle, people took very few baths. Water was pretty scarce in most places. Ma would fill up a half-barrel with hot water and the entire family would wash in it every couple of weeks - sometimes just once a month! You know that saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"? That comes from this little tidbit: Families would bathe in order from oldest to youngest, leaving the baby last. By the time the infant made it into the tub of luke-warm water, it'd be filthy. (I just cannot get that out of my head! I imagine that this is probably a big reason for so many disease-related infant deaths.) So that saying really hold much more meaning when you think of bathwater that is so dirty you wouldn't notice the baby in there!

I guess I'm done with my pointless rambling. The subject's just been on my mind.

How often do you bathe your children? Do you think it's too much, just right, or not enough?


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