Quite some time ago when my husband had the clever idea of letting the kids bathe themselves, I thought it was one more task we could scratch off our parental chore list. It seemed easy enough. Our kids sat on the receiving end of countless scrubdowns in the tub and shower, and it seemed logical that they would know what to do with a bar of soap and a squirt of shampoo.
But when our daughter emerged from the shower with a half-dry head of hair or our son stood covered in bubbles waiting for a towel, it became increasingly clear that Bathing 101 was in order.
Some nights we had to remind them to wash specific parts and show them how. One kid would admit to not having washed his face in a week, promptly sending me in a flurry for a washcloth, soap, and warm water. “We’re washing it now.” For every shower since, I yell into the steam, “Did you wash your face?”
Each shower brought a new lesson that we hadn’t thought of. Sadly, it was evident that we had to spell it out for our kids in a way they would understand: “Wash your body from head to toe, with soap, between all your parts, every crack. Understand?”
I don’t think they got it. After my son’s shower one night, I sat down to trim the claws growing from his toes. He seemed set on using them to climb trees in the back yard. I feared he’d permanently snag them in his leather shoes. Overcome with harsh vinegary foot odor, tears filled my eyes and I gasped for bits of fresh air. “Did you wash your feet?” I asked between choking sobs.
“No,” he said. They smelled like he’d worn sneakers in the jungle for a year with no socks.
“They reek. You need to wash your feet. I can’t believe you just got out of the shower and they smell so bad,” I said through the hand covering my nose and mouth.
“I never do,” he admitted. “I just let the bubbles on the floor get my feet when I rinse.”
Oh, for Pete’s sake. “You need to rub soap all over them. Your armpits too. All the smelly areas. Your whole body!”
I can imagine his third-grade classroom and the odors of freshly bathed children wafting through the air. No wonder teachers sit near the windows.
Next I’ll discover my kids just run their toothbrushes under the water and don’t actually brush them.