You know those adorable photos that every parent takes of their child or children in the bathtub, sporting a bubble beard and Cindy-Lou Who pointed hairdo? They give you the impression that bathtime is a time of great joy in any household, all golden light and laughter and cleanliness. But you know what? Those pictures perpetuate a pack of lies.
What the pictures don’t tell you is that immediately beforehand, the children in question spent ten minutes doing cannonballs into the cramped tub, threatening life, limb, and the integrity of your tile floor. They also fail to mention that one or both children will almost immediately pee into the bathwater as soon as they get in, a fact that they will proudly announce, and you will wish they hadn’t, because if you hadn’t physically known the pee was there, you wouldn’t have had any qualms about washing them with it. But instead, you have to drain the tub, leaving you with cold, angry, soapy, urine-dipped children who exact their revenge in the form of liberal pants-soakings as soon as you try to wash them.
I have tried everything to cut these things off at the pass. I have even gone so far as to bathe my children while basically naked, just to avoid the disgusting feeling of wet leggings and socks after my fifth consecutive tsunami of soapy bathtub cannonball water. But somehow, they always get me. Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill splashing, or the unceremonious dumping of an entire bottle of conditioner into the bathwater, or, once, a piece of installation art that required the use of every single one of my clean washcloths, pasted to the shower wall with toothpaste, bathtime never fails to serve as a harrowing reminder of my mortality.
Even the mere act of coercing my children into the bathtub must be on par with the talents of some of our nation’s top hostage negotiators. There is much begging, pleading, bargaining and threatening required to get them into the tub, and even more to get them out again. Generally, by the end of bath night, I find myself with a soaked bathroom floor, no towels to spare, and the enviable task of needing to arrange for Justin Bieber to play a concert in my backyard. With ponies.
Now, it’s true that when they finally emerge from the bathtub, smelling all good and looking so clean, they are basically at peak cuddliness, particularly when wrapped in their hooded owl or dinosaur towels. I love making little comb lines in their hair, and wrapping them up all tight in their towels and hustling them into their little pajamas. Maybe that’s the moment you’re trying to capture when you take that bathtime pic– that little bit of peace and comfort that comes with a clean kid. Which lasts exactly as long as it takes for you to slip on the giant puddle they leave on the bathroom floor, cursing society for requiring cleanliness and reminding yourself to invest in dry shampoo and baby wipes.