When I was giving my 11-month-old a bath the other night I immediately flashed back to an evening I spent with my then boyfriend, now husband, about seven years ago.
We had made plans to have a low-key evening in. I headed over to his apartment to find him going for a night swim with his roommates. I felt uncomfortable, out of place, and awkward. I thought this was going to be a night for the two of us. As I watched my guy and his pals having a great time in the pool, while I stood there dumbfounded, I saw five options:
1. Calmly express my frustration at the situation and request that my boyfriend get out of the pool and spend time with me.
2. Demand some respect and request that my boyfriend get out of the pool and spend time with me.
3. Head home in a huff, frustrated, annoyed, and disappointed.
4. Passive-aggressively tell my boyfriend to have fun with his friends…that it’s no big deal, I just drove over expecting us to have some alone time, but I’ll just go home and eat my feelings.
Normally, I would have selected some combination of these choices. We had made plans and he was disrespecting them. But for some reason that wasn’t what I did. I went for option number:
5. Take off my shoes, remove my cell phone from my pocket and jump in the pool fully clothed.
I had played out how the rest of the night would go with the first four options and they all ended with me being sad and the two of us fighting. Trust me, I think there are times to fight. Arguments are good for relationships. No one should feel like they’re being walked all over or that their voice isn’t heard. But in that one moment, as I felt myself tensing, I opted to jump in.
As I took that cold, clothes-clinging plunge, I gave the guys a good laugh and was choosing love over my own comfort.
Now, back to present day (well a few days ago…weeks ago…we’ll go with weeks ago)…
My daughter loves the bath. I think if she could figure out a way to sleep in there she would (NOTE: I WOULD NEVER LET MY DAUGHTER SLEEP IN THE TUB… come on now.) She doesn’t seem to mind when I accidentally get soap in her eyes, she loves to “Splash, Splash, Splash,” and put her duckies’ heads in her mouth. But on this day, I placed my child into the tub and she promptly screamed a scream I’d never heard her scream.
Was the water too hot? Too cold? Did I accidentally fill the tub with shards of glass instead of water? What could cause such sadness and/or fear? I was dumbfounded.
I pulled out all of her bath toys, sang her favorite songs, played peek-a-boo, but she only wanted to cling to me. I felt myself tensing and I’m sure that wasn’t helping her comfort level.
So I did what has apparently become my “thing…” I got right into the tub with my clothes on. I held her tight as I washed her hair. She liked the feel of my wet clothes. She still looked frightened but seemed happy I was there. She even laughed a little as I laughed, taking a moment to look at my soaked self.
I looked ridiculous. But isn’t that what being a parent is about sometimes? Looking positively ridiculous for the sake of our kids? Whether it’s singing goofy songs while making funny faces and doing silly hand motions or playing peek-a-boo in public with a blanket, burp cloth, or a piece of cheese; we do it because we love our little ones.
The next few baths my daughter took got gradually better. We took it slow and now she’s back to going, “Splash, Splash, Splash,” with a smile.
Would she have gotten there without me getting into the tub? Maybe. I’ve heard it’s a common phase. But knowing that by me acting the fool there was even the slightest possibility that I could turn my daughter’s frown upside down, then the fool I shall always be. As Alexander Pope said, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” And rush (and Splash, Splash, Splash) I did.