Sunday night I commence the bathing of the smaller members of the family. I take senior son first because even though he is clean, he is also cold. We spend 25 minutes deep in reciprocal conversation, [translation = two people exchange comments] as his whole body bounces rhythmically from top end to tap end, rigid as a torpedo but coherent. [translation = faucet] All his new phrases come tumbling out with perfect intonation, which means that I've judged the temperature just right, “Ah that hits the spot, I'm in the zone now, I can handle it, dis is heaven,” he croons.
His sister is next requiring serious amounts of hair taming. His bath, now tepid, does not meet her basic requirements. Lashings of hot water bring the temperature up to acceptable levels. As I pick up discarded clothes and soggy towels, she empties the bottle of conditioner into the water, as if it has magical properties.
Lastly we have junior, filthy and smelly. He examines the milky water with an expression of doubt and trepidation. “I cook, I cook!” he remarks noting the steam. A toe advances, “I am burning!” he squeaks as he beats a hasty retreat, skidding through the puddles. I allow him to control the flow of cold water, whilst I churn up the contents until he feels he is able to tolerate his first foot in water up to the ankle. It takes a while to ease him into the state of wetness, but once there, he is happy to splosh around in the water up to his neck.
The last drop of his baby shampoo has vanished. I debate. He is nearly six, there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to tolerate his siblings 'whatever is on offer at the supermarket' choice of shampoo. I spend ten minutes attempting to wet his hair without him noticing. Every 'ouch I am melting' tells me that I have not succeeded. I cannot fathom why he should worry about melting when he is already wet from chin to toe? I hear the garage door open as spouse departs to refill the car with petrol [translation = gas] before the Monday morning run to school. I need to speed up, to get back to the two unsupervised ones.
I wait until he is absorbed with emptying the bath by a wave making extravaganza and then smear his head with shampoo. I grip his slithery screaming form, but he's to distracted by the competing need to keep the waves at the same height and in the same circuit of velocity. One cupful spurts out of one corner onto the floor, one bucketful off the deep end, at twenty second intervals.
“Ahg! I smell dying! I smell sick! My nose it is dying from the sick smell.”
“It's not sick dear. I know! Lets read the label.” I hold out the bottle in front of him as the waves subside.
“'A burst of Juicy Grape.' Grape! Grape? You put fruit on my head, oh no, now I am really dying, don't eat me.” He scrambles to escape from the bath, but he is easy to corral, unable to gain a purchase on anything in his slithery state.
“Why you put fruit on me? You wanna eat my hair?”
“No, don't be so silly, it just smells of fruit, that's all.”
“But you like it. You like hairy fruit.”
“Liar! Liar! You are loving the hairy fruit. Hairy fruit is your favourite!”
“Well….anyway grapes aren't hairy.”
“Why it fruit? Fruit is for eating not hairing, er, washing, er shampooing.”
“But you don't eat fruit anyway! So what does it matter what you do with it?” He pauses to reflect these words of wisdom and I pause for breath, hoping my chain of deceit can be repaired by careful calculations.
“But mummy, you are forgetting, I do eat fruit now, and I am eating my grapes too.”
“O.k. howabouts I only put the fruit that you don't yet eat, on your hair?” He doesn't answer but sits quietly contemplating his options, whilst I rinse him. I'm merely grateful for the lack of movement. I carry him back to the family room rigid as a board, his damp head rests on my shoulder. Both hands clamped to his hair line, his eyes ever way. They never leave my mouth, just in case I'm tempted by a quick nibble. Spouse has returned and is busy brushing the bird's nest on his daughter's head. He sees me park junior back onto his feet in a vertical position, elbows out, hands still in protective mode, “I thought you weren't supposed to be carrying him any more?” I retaliate, “did you wash that brush first dear?” I ask, provocative but truthful.
“Brush. Brush? Hair brush? Why would I want to wash a hair brush?” he queries between squeaks and yelps from his daughter.
“Because if their hair is clean, then it needs a clean brush.”
“Oh. Well never mind this once. By the way, I filled up the car with gas [translation = petrol] whilst you were bathing them all.”
“Great, thanks. I hate driving around with a thimbleful.”
“There was one of those bloody great tanks on the forecourt too. Dread to think what his bill was!” [translation = expenditure]
“They're ridiculous those cars, shouldn't really even call them cars at all. What kind of show-off prances around in a Hummel? Pretentious git!” [translation = unflattering comment]
“The car. The big tank! It's not a 'Hummel' but a 'Hummer.' You need to practice distinguishing between large macho lumps of metal and small kitsch German figurines.”