There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING about toddler bath time in our house that is enjoyable.
From the moment the "B" word is mentioned, there are protests. I get the bath ready and then go looking for the boy. This is the first strike against bath time, as he has to stop whatever he is doing. Generally, he runs away from me yelling, "No, no, no." But it doesn't take long before I have cornered him. Then the tears and howling start.
Then comes strike two for bath time. I start to take his clothes off and you would think that I am skinning him alive by the way he screams, cries and kicks in protest. Not only does this child of mine HATE having his clothes taken off and being naked, but his most loathed thing in the whole world is to have bare feet. He ALWAYS wears socks. If the socks come off for ANY reason, the world comes crashing down around him.
"Mine sock, mine sock," he yells with tears streaming down his face as if someone had stole a priceless item from him. It is a horrifying tragedy.
So, he is already mad, no angry, no furious as I haul him kicking and screaming to the bathroom, where the tub, full of water and toys awaits him. And that is strike three, the water. The toys would be great fun if there was no water, without water, he could keep his clothes on. Without water, he could keep his socks!
Despite his active and insistent protests against bath time, into the tub he goes. This is when he starts to call for reinforcements. "Daddy, Daddy?" he calls, working hard to sound as tortured as possible. When Daddy doesn't instantly appear, Liam starts wailing. "Dadadadada Daddddy!" Daddy comes, but doesn't save him, which causes even more howling and wailing. Liam's world is not a happy place at this moment.
Now, you would think that after three strikes, that would be it, bath time would be out and we'd be done. However, the torture has just begun!
The next strike is the biggie! The worse of the worst tortures. It could possible even rival Chinese water torture. It's gasp, time to WASH! We start with the hair.
Now, over the past two years, we haven't once washed this child's hair without hysterics. No matter how I try to wash his hair, (sitting up or laying down; hand held shower head or small cup)it is always traumatizing for both of us. We've opted for the hand held shower head lately. It isn't really any more traumatic than and other way we've tried, but it is the fastest. And if he's going to scream and cry like he's being beaten, I want it to be as fast as possible!
In the past, once his hair is washed, Liam would calm down while I washed the rest of him and then would be content to play with his bath toys. But that made the whole process much less frustrating for Mom, and we wouldn't want that, now would we?
The entire time I am cleaning him, Liam continues to scream and cry, "No Mommy, No, Mommy," while struggling to get out of the tub.
Finally, when all is clean, I tell him that he can play, he continues to yell. "No out! Out! Socks, mine socks!"
So out we get for more torture, being dried. Towels and bath robes are as bad as the bath itself! More screams and cries. And then the body lotion. I would skip this step if I could, but he has excema and needs his cream. But I swear, it's just lotion, not some kind of poison that I am applying to his body!
And heaven helps up all if I don't put those socks on immediately. I don't know what he thinks might happen if he doesn't have socks on but they are very important to him! (His bedtime Elmo even has to wear socks!)
When Liam is finally dressed and diapered, life begins to return to normal but usually a sippy cup of milk is needed before he completely calms down.
And for me, relief and exhaustion. A struggle that I don't want to face again, but that I know I will be in the middle of again in a day or two. If I am lucky, I'll be able to put it off for three days.
I thank my lucky stars that I don't live in an apartment as I am sure one of my neighbours would have reported me to CAS by now. The way the boy cries "No Mommy, No Mommy," over and over again, every time, I wouldn't blame them!
But seriously, it breaks my heart every time I have to bathe him and make him cry like that. Bath time should be fun. He should be slashing and making a mess of my bathroom. I should be the one saying "No" when he splashes too much or tries to jump in the bath tub. It shouldn't be this traumatic experience for either of us.
But I am at a loss of for what to do.
We have bath toys. I've tried bubble bath. I've tried every way I can think of to wash his hair.
I wait as long as I possible can between baths so that he doesn't have to experience the trauma as often. But maybe that's a mistake. Maybe more often would get him more used to it but I can't bear to upset him anymore than necessary.
All I can do is keep trying and hope that it is a phase that will someday (soon?) be over. Until then, bath time will continue to be toddler torture time in our house.