Thursday, September 16, 2010
Just Take a Bath
I drove home from soccer practice last night listening to the shrieks and cries and horrid moans of an unhappy little boy. Yes, my sweet precious angel hollered the whole way home (a thankfully short commute) because I decided he would bathe instead of shower.
While not normally cause for such alarm, precious angel was tired. And hungry. And hot. And doggone it that boy wanted a shower. In my best stern mommy voice I also asked him to bring in his shoes from the car. The horror. Waterworks all up in here.
One daughter covered her ears. One daughter made funny faces hoping to cheer him up. Both actions caused equal and utterly opposite reactions in their brother. That's the trouble with physics.
We made it home with him wailing to his heart's content. I stopped trying to reason with him when his words became unintelligible. The line between reason and hysteria had been crossed miles ago. Finally home, the girls scattered, probably thankful they could escape to the relative quiet of their rooms and their homework. He went to his room, covered himself with blankets and continued that post-cry whimpering, short-breathing things kids do when they know they're not going to get their way, not fully committed to trying anymore but still kind of aggravated. In lighter moments, it's kind of funny.
I started a bath, thinking of my mother. I dropped in gobs and gobs of bubble bath, another unusual event at our house. We're usually cycling through too many bodies to luxuriate in bubbles of aromatic ambiance. My mother's prescription for everything when we were growing up was a bath. I'd say, "I have a headache." She'd say, "Take a bath." My sister would be stressed over tests: "Take a bath." Even our brother was advised to take a bath when under duress or illness.
My son had the same reaction we did. Dude was pissed. Our mother's one-stop, cure-all works-every-time solution seemed to mock our displeasure. "Just take a bath," we teased her, had become her code for: "Tell someone who gives a crap." She wasn't really belittling our emotions, reducing our stress to a simple action, confining our unhappiness to the bathroom (Freud would for sure have something to say about that.)
In our angst, we overlooked her genuine care. We wanted her to wallow in our drama. We wanted her to stomp her feet with us. We wanted tears, balled fists, reaction. Anything that indicated she was on our side.
The way she did that, though, was to offer a quiet space where no body could pour salt in our emotional gashes. Where we could be alone to sift out the thoughts, shake loose the dross and soak away the metaphoric and physical dirt. She's a smart one, my mom.
I plopped the sobbing boy in the tub, tears streaking down his dirty soccer field face. I wish I could say instantly his troubles were over. No. It wasn't as fast as that. But, he did sit for a while. Then he began to play with his action heroes. He finally tried the new shampoo I'd bought for him. In the end, he climbed out of the tub quieter, calmer, happier, and ready for bed.
Sometimes, I want to throw the same kind of fit my son did. I want to shout and scream and tell people they're all stupid. Of course, as an adult, that's just not done. However, the prescription remains the same at our house. Just take a bath.