Rub a Dub Dub, How To Get a Toddler Clean in the Tub

Delta Winds cover 2000Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Rub a Dub Dub, How To Get a Toddler Clean in the Tub

Sandra Amaral

I've had a long day. I don't know how I made it through dinner without falling asleep. I think the sudden shrieks of my three children kept me from dipping my face into my mashed potatoes. Cleaning the kitchen was also a joy-filled task. I look forward to it every night, right along with cleaning up after our Labrador Retriever. But, then evening comes and my household becomes more tranquil. It is now bath time. While my ten-year-old and seven-year-old are perfectly capable of bathing or showering themselves, my three-year-old, Jonathan, still needs my help. It is a team effort between him and me. He only accepts my help if he knows it would be difficult for him to do it himself.

I take a deep breath and call for my younger son. He says, "What?" from the other room. I tell him it's bath time, and he runs as fast as he can to me. I take his small hand and lead him to his bedroom. We stop in front of his oak dresser; he then bends down and opens the large drawer on the bottom. After looking through his clothes, he decides on a white T-shirt with a big Tweety Bird face on the front, Rugrats boxer shorts, and Batman underwear. He throws them out onto the floor and slams the drawer shut. He then gathers his clothes from the floor and shouts, "All ready!"

I motion him to the bathroom. I then follow him as he runs halfway down the hall to the bathroom. He almost passes it because he's in such a hurry. He turns left into the bathroom and puts his pajamas on the bathroom counter. He sits to pull off his sandals; he gets his left one off quickly, but struggles with the right one. He tries to unbuckle it, but his small hands are too clumsy for the buckle. He then tries smacking his right sandal on the floor. After a few heartfelt tries, my little boy looks up at me and with his eyes only, pleads for help. I bend down and slowly show him how to unbuckle his sandal. I push the flap through the grasp, lift the flap slightly, and then guide the flap out of the grasp completely. He immediately jumps up, and sheds his shorts and underwear. He kicks them from his ankles onto the bathroom floor. He now grabs the bottom of his shirt and begins to pull it up over his head, but it gets stuck midway. I can no longer see his face now that he's got the shirt pulled over his head. It won't go further than his neck. This angers him, and he begins to hop up and down in a frenzy. I try to unbutton his shirt while he's hopping. It can't be done. I firmly ask him to calm down so I can unbutton his shirt. He stays still just long enough for me to bring the shirt back down and unbutton it. He moves my hands away, and takes this last item of clothing off and throws it the floor.

I grab the fuzzy blue carpet hanging over our bathtub and place it in front of the tub. I use it, not so much because I'm afraid of a wet floor, but my knees take a beating on the cement slab our house is built on. With my right hand, I reach for the left nozzle and turn it counter-clockwise a few turns. Then I do the same with the right nozzle. I grab the plug from the top left of the tub and plug the drain. I realize now that I should have gotten the water ready before my son undressed. He's really anxious to get in the tub and is being a bit annoying trying to move me aside so he can get in. It seems as if the tub is filling drop by drop, rather than pouring in from the faucet.

Finally, the water is ready. I turn both nozzles clockwise until they can't turn anymore, and the water stops flowing into the tub. I turn to my son beside me and grab his hand closest to me. He places his other hand on top of the tub. I help keep him secure as he takes one leg and then the other into the bathtub. He lets go of my hand and just stands there. I know he is debating in his head on the temperature of the water. Is it too hot or is it too cold? Since he is still not sure, he sits very, very slowly in the water. Once he is comfortable, the fun begins.

Immediately, he slams the front of his body into the water. He tells me he's a fish and does 360's in the bathtub. We sing, "Wheels on the Bus," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and the "ABC" song over and over. We are having such a good time; it's a shame I have to wash his hair. All the singing and story telling in the world does not make washing his hair a pleasant event. It must be done, so again, I take a deep breath. I reach for a large, dark blue cup and his eyes widen. "No!" he screams, "I don't want to wash my hair! I don't have to!" Knowing I'm not going to make him feel better by singing, I go into automatic. I fill the cup with water and pour it over his screaming head. I repeat this function about five times. He tries to beat me to the shampoo, but I don't have water in my eyes to blur my vision, and I get the shampoo before him. His hands are now on the top of his head. I pour about a teaspoon of shampoo into my left palm, move his hands, and massage it unto his head with both my hands. I start around his forehead and continue all the way to his neckline. I am constantly moving his hands away from mine. I look for the large, blue cup to rinse his hair, but he has it. I take it away and again fill it with water. I repeat this function about ten times to get all the shampoo out. I am exhausted, and my ears are ringing by this time. He finally quiets and acts as if nothing has just occurred. I follow his lead, and we begin to sing again. I take a small wash cloth that is lying over the faucet, wet it, wring it out, and rub some soap unto it. I begin to wash him in circular motions, beginning from his forehead down to his belly button, making a stop in his ears. I grab my cup and rinse him three or four times. For some reason, he does not mind me rinsing him. Go figure. I ask him to stand up and I hold out my hand. He takes my hand and I gently help him to stand. I then wash from his navel down to his toes in the same circular motion. I rinse his lower body about three or four times. He kneels down and reaches over to beep my nose; big mistake on his part because I have just realized how dirty his fingernails are. I grab my nail file from the third bathroom drawer. Nail by nail, I clean out the dirt with the pointed edge of the file. He is completely in awe, as he always is when I clean his nails. I finish and put the file away where I got it.

Putting on his clothes is a much easier task. I grab the towel hanging from the towel rack and ask him to come out of the tub. He is ready to leave, and I give him my hand. He climbs out of the tub in the same manner he climbed in. He stands shivering for a second, and I wrap him in the towel. I reach up, grab another towel, and dry his hair. Meanwhile, he attempts to dry his body. I'm talking to him the entire time about what a big boy he is, and how nice and clean he is. He just smiles and laughs. After drying him off, he gets his clothes from the counter. I face the clothes in the proper direction, and he pulls them on. He pulls his underwear on, then his boxer shorts, and lastly his T-shirt.

He wastes no time getting out of the bathroom and pushes past me to leave the bathroom to go search for his brother and sister. I am, however, left with a mess to clean. I pull the plug and watch the drain gulp down the bathtub water. I clean the ring around the bathtub with an old, faded washcloth I got from under the bathroom sink. I put the cup back on top of the tub and wring out the washcloth. I throw the washcloth in the hamper, and check the rest of the bathroom. It's never too early to teach a young one to pick up after himself, so I call Jonathan back to the bathroom. He comes running and says, "What?" I tell him to pick up his dirty clothes and put them in the hamper. He then gathers his clothing one by one, lifts the lid, drops them in the hamper and takes off running. I put the fuzzy, blue carpet over the bathtub and stand up. I am pleased because I am finished.

I will only give Jonathan baths for a few more years, and then that part of my life will be over. What may seem like a chore now will be remembered in years to come as a fun and special time with just a little attitude mixed in.