Slippery when wet

For most grown-ups, a hot bath is a luxury. Sitting and soaking, letting the water wash away our cares. Many of us never have time for such leisurely cleansing.

Most mornings, I'm in and out of the shower so fast, it ought to have a revolving door. Spritz, spritz, shampoo, rinse, repeat, then get the heck out of there so I can get the kids to school on time.

While I'm pulling the Superman-in-a-phone-booth number, my two sons splash and cavort in their baths, playing and singing and laughing. Doing everything, really, except soaping and shampooing. Then I burst into the steamy bathroom, shouting, urging them to hurry, hurry, hurry before we're late. Again.

They respond by draining the tub, towelling off and jumping into their clothes, no less dirty than when they began. They don't get clean. They just get wet.

That's if we can get them into the bathtub at all. I don't know what it's like for you parents who have girls, but boys treat bathtime as if it's some exotic torture. Tell them it's time to bathe, and they howl and cry and carry on so, you'd think the tub was filled with boiling oil.

But we parents insist. The kids must bathe regularly. Otherwise, we end up chipping the dirt off them with a chisel.

Our 11-year-old tries various types of subterfuge to avoid the ordeal of bathing. His speciality is the morning-long stall. He'll putter around, ever so slowly gathering his clothes and a towel, fiddling with the radio, eating his breakfast in slow-motion, all in the hopes that I'll surrender: "OK, OK, it's too late now for a bath. Just wash your face and throw on your clothes. Hurry! We're late!"

Or, I'll find him still in his room, reading, his change of clothes at his feet. No water in the tub. I patiently scream, "What about your bath?" And he'll look up at me, blinking, and say something like, "Oh, you meant TODAY?"

Sometimes, he gets creative with his objections. One day, the little wisenheimer responded to my demands this way: "I'm protesting the American obsession with bathing." In many European countries, he argued, people only bathe once a week.

Fine, I said, now get your little European fanny in the tub. And wash it. He went off grumbling about his provincial American parents.

(You're probably thinking about now: Why doesn't this idiot bathe his sons in the EVENING? Then he wouldn't have this problem on hectic school mornings. We tried that. The boys went to bed with wet hair. The next morning, their hair had dried into fans and spikes all over. They looked like they had porcupines squatting on their heads.)

So I plead and cajole and demand that they take their morning baths. And they do finally, grumbling and weeping and gnashing their teeth. And then I can't get them out of the tub.

Oh, sure, a bath is to be avoided at all costs. Argue with Dad, stall and complain, but once they're in the water, the thinking goes: "Hey, this isn't so bad. We've got spongy toys and sweet-smelling bubbles and tear-free shampoo. We can splash and play. At least until Dad goes ballistic again about how we're running late."

Every bath apparently is a voyage of discovery for my sons. They can't remember, from one day to the next, that bathing is a pleasurable experience. I'm beginning to think they have short-term memory problems. I've even considered taking them to a doctor, having their heads examined. But I'm afraid to let a physician look them over. He might find all the dirt they missed.

My wife's more philosophical about the Bath Wars. On days when no amount of parental encouragement can get the boys in the tub, she shrugs and says we're conserving water, saving up for the days when they become teen-agers, when they start dating. Then, she says, they'll bathe three times a day, and I'll complain about that.

She has a point. We should save water. In fact, I'm thinking about moving toward xeriscaping, changing our domestic landscape into a low-water-use zone of gravel and cacti.

Starting with the bathrooms.

No comments: