Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: "I like having baths now" - Oct 05

From Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lyddie has hated having a bath since she was about 8 months old. Prior to that she and I enjoyed shared baths, but something must have happened to put her off them and until about 4 months ago she endured weekly showers instead as this was the quickest, easiest, least traumatic way of keeping her as clean as we could. Even then, once a week wasn't really sufficient and even then, she'd cry and scream throughout.

About 3/4 months ago the shower broke and Lyddie would not be dragged forcibly into a bath, so we were reduced to trying to sponge her down instead, which she also hated and protested to violently. Her level of hygiene dropped below what I was comfortable with and this week I talked to her about having a bath.

The conversation went like this:

"Hey, your legs are really dirty, and your arms - look! Can you see how dirty they are? You're going to have to have a bath before we go out."

"No. I hate baths."

"But we need to get you clean."

"Well, use a cloth."

"A cloth won't do it, you're too dirty. You need to soak in a bath to get all that dirt off."

"I hate baths."

"How about a little bath? With toys? People? Boats? And me sitting next to you ready to pull you out of you wanted me to?"

"No."

*Deep breath.* "Well you're going to have to if you want to go to the home ed meeting. Come on, lets go do it."

She came upstairs, took her clothes off. I ran a bath about 2 inches deep, with bubbles. She agreed to stand in it but not to sit down. "Why not?"

"Too many bubbles."

"How many bubbles do you want?"

"None."

"OK....."

I pulled the plug, draining the bubbles, washed away the residue. Drew another 2 inches of lukewarm water into the bath. She still didn't want to sit down. She kept trying, but just couldn't seem to do it. It was very tempting to just pick her up and then seat her in it, semi-forcibly, but I resisted the temptation.

"Come on, you can do it," I said. "Just sit down." I had to repeat this with 100% confidence about 7 times before she did.

Then she started playing with the boat, and knocking the little people off the bath side into the water. And laughing with glee.

That was Monday morning. She had another bath - at her insistence - on Monday evening, two yesterday and one today. The problem now is getting her out of the bath, she wants to be in for at least an hour, just moving the water around with her hands, just sitting there. The water can be cool, it's only 2 inches deep, she won't have it any deeper, but she's just very happy to be in it.

I don't mind sitting by the bath side for huge chunks of time - it's just so nice to see her enjoying a bath. And she's clean! I can look at her feet and ankles without cringing at the dirt!

We haven't got as far as face or hair-washing yet. There's a tidemark of dirt around her neck I'm itching to get clean, but I can be patient. I'm hoping that she'll enjoy deeper, warmer baths soon - maybe even tolerate some form of soap or bubbles - maybe even lie down in it!

Anyway, this is the reality of autonomous childrearing. Society demands clean children: having dirty ones is a crime reportable to and actionable by Social Services. And yet if your young child doesn't enjoy water, what do you do? Force them to have baths anyway, says Society. It's your duty as the Adult Who Knows What's Best for the Child. Force the child to comply. Break its spirit. Don't allow opt-outs.

In the end there was some firm persuasion involved and I'm still not 100% happy with the ethics of that, but I needed to do it for both our sakes and now I'm glad I did. Do I wish I'd done it earlier? No. She had to be ready. Even now, she's only happy with the bath if she's in control. She has to climb in and out, turn the taps on and off, put the plug in and take it out when she's ready to. I'm only there as a lifeguard and for company to chat to, and cuddles with big towels afterwards. I don't give her a bath, she gives herself one, and I don't think she was physically or psychologically capable of that until very recently, which is why she wouldn't submit to the bath time process until now.

posted by Gill at 11:17 AM 5 comments

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