The hygiene of my children is very much a hands on affair.
Having overcome the seasonal changes from baths in the winter, to showers in the summer and then back again, I can honestly say that the painful transition period has shortened considerably over the last decade, from months to a mere few weeks, testimonial to the fact that they continue to grow.
I’m uncertain if I’m there in the bathroom to prevent escape, provide entertainment or minimize carnage, but in any event I consider that I could probably be using my time in a more constructive manner, elsewhere.
That said it comes to my attention late in the day, that the all elusive ‘independence’ factor is adrift. It would appear that originally I was present at bath-time to prevent babies from drowning, ten years later I’m still there, with much physically larger off spring, with considerably greater surface area of skin. I notice that my boy children are no longer babies, because I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, despite the all too visible evidence to the contrary, backed up by the dated growth marks on the grimy kitchen door frame.
In a sudden flash of genius I realize that pretty soon, one way or another, I may be well out of my depth, and deep in the mire of puberty. I’m told that it happens to us all, but I’m no scientist. I use my exceptionally large memory bank to recall ‘what is the correct age?’ When should they be able to bathe themselves? Just in the nick of time I remember that I threw out all the useless books about averages, developmental milestones and what to expects, at about the same time as I realized that my particular family had deviated from the norm.
I e-mail trusted pals and chums who universally confirm the magic age of 7. Whilst I am tempted to sulk, instead I return to the base line, other parents with similarly off-beat children. We collude and conclude that with all other things being equal, a parent should, in an ideal world, aim for independence immediately prior to the arrival of the first spot of acne, just to be on the safe side. Armed with this nugget of information but without a crystal ball, I calculate that I should have begun this process approximately eighteen months, 3 days and 45 minutes ago.
I decide, unilaterally, without consultation to the parties herein concerned, that they will learn to wash their own hair, if not by themselves, at least with less maternal physical input, eventually.
As usual, I find I fail to think through the plan of action thoroughly, merely launch myself feet first into another campaign.
The first thing I forget about is the need for ear-plugs. My son is quite reasonably outraged at my unreasonableness, withdrawal of services without warning or preamble. His facial expression is a study in contempt; what is the point of having a parent if the parent fails to perform as a parent should? It’s a tempting argument, one I have been susceptible to for longer than would be strictly necessary for anyone else with one wit of common sense.
But we persevere.
As we all know, hair washing is a multi step sequence, each one of which is every bit as vile as any of the other bits.
It’s a challenge.
I remember that the tools that we most commonly refer to as hands, are located at the ends of their arms. I also remember that when hands are expected to function in a new and uncertain manner, as often as not, the arms turn to spaghetti. I have no choice but to opt for the ‘hand over hand’ model of progress. It feels like back to square one and I wonder, not for the first time, what exactly have I being doing with my time all these years?
With my hand over his I swiftly slap a dollop of shampoo on the apex of his skull, with a little too much vigour, more of a smack than a plop and it’s pretty much down hill after that.
His brother looks on, or rather scowls with contempt as he plots and observes. It’s written all over his face, how to avoid the same fate as his little brother?
“Do you wash dad?”
“Er……well……..I…..um….not usually but I did wash him when he broke his leg a few years back.”
“People learn to wash themselves, with practice, in time.”
“I’m finkin………. about time.”
“Ah. What about time?”
“What is betterer I’m thinkin?”
“What is better than what?”
“Gettin a wife or breakin yur leg?”