If your family is anything like mine, bath duty is one of the jobs that neither parent wants.
First you haul all three kids upstairs, protesting loudly (sometimes they only get up there after being threatened). The toddler refuses to use the toilet; after fifteen minutes you think, oh, well, she just doesn’t have to go—and then, the instant her chubby little feet hit the bath water, she lets loose. And that’s the good scenario. Let’s not think about the other bodily function.
The kids spend bath time jostling for position, communicating by shouts, shrieks and sometimes screams. The toddler throws wet sponges on the floor. The baby kicks half his bathwater onto the tile. The preschooler “plays” the water flutes, sometimes singing Superman through them, and refuses to wash himself until the water is stone cold. The toddler screams about having her hair washed.
And that’s only Phase One of the operation. Once they’re out of the tub, you still have to get them all ready for bed! The baby is mad about being pulled from the water, and screams bloody murder until you get him on the breast, which of course you can’t do until the other two are done. The toddler hates having her teeth brushed, and the preschooler will NOT come quietly out of the tub. Chores are accomplished by shouting, bullying, and sometimes by loss of bedtime stories. By the time the operation is all over, it’s 8:30 p.m. and Parent is shivering with exhaustion and useless for anything but bed herself.
So last night, I tried something new. Tuesdays are always my night for baths, because Christian teaches piano. I took the kids upstairs directly after dessert and took baths early, with the expectation that we’d be done in plenty of time to play for a while before bedtime. And miracle of miracles—it worked!
I put Nicholas in his little tub and went to brush my teeth and pull out diapers and night clothes. By then, he’d had time to play for a while. I washed him up and got him out of the tub, then took him to be nursed and put in bed. Of course by then the other kids’ water was cold, so I ran some more hot water in it and washed Julianna’s hair. The trick with Julianna is to sing while you do whatever she finds unpleasant (teeth brushing, hair brushing, hair washing…). It works about 85% of the time. At the moment, to Christian’s chagrin, her favorite song is “It’s a Small World.”
They were all ready for bed at 7:35. (!!!) We brought bedtime books into my bedroom and burrowed down under the comforter to read. Then we horseplayed for a while, snuggled and giggled, and said our prayers. I put them in bed at 7:55. At 8:05, Christian came up from lessons and looked around, confused, no doubt, by the lack of shouting and chaos. “Um…are you already done with baths?” he asked.
Ah-ha! I triumph!