Ever since she was little, my daughter has hated getting water in her eyes. She’d cry and scream, and like so many first-time parents, I would go to extremes to avoid her crying and screaming. At bath time, I’d gently tilt her head back and cover her forehead with a washcloth as I rinsed away the shampoo, ensuring that the water stayed far away from her face. As she got older, I still protected her eyes.
As a 2-year-old, she learned to ask for a boop-boop–a washcloth to pat away the droplets that had gotten past my protective hand-washcloth-cup system. (“Boop-boop” is the sound that the washcloth makes when it pats eyes, in case you were wondering.) A few years later she knew to ask for her own washcloth to dry her face, and whenever her little brother would splash her in the tub, she’d still immediately dry her eyes. Whenever we asked her to take a shower instead of a bath, she’d cry because she hated the idea that the water could splash down and get in her eyes.
By 3 years old, she basically put her foot down and refused to take showers any longer. So we were fated to filling up the tub all the time. And let me tell you—baths take forever. Cleaning the tub, filling the tub, putting in the toys, getting the kid in the tub, convincing her to let me wash her hair instead of just letting her play, convincing her to get out of the tub…I wished she would just take a shower instead. I marveled at my friend’s story of how her children always argued with her whenever she wanted to get them in the tub, because they only wanted to take a shower. I just didn’t believe it could be true. I mean, why would a KID want to take a SHOWER and get water in her eyes?
But then last night my husband suggested that my daughter take a shower instead of a bath. He told her that by the time she’s 6 (in a few months) she’ll really need to be able to take a shower by herself because she’ll be a big girl. I looked at him like he was crazy. (Later he told me that he was thinking about our nieces who starting showering by themselves around 6 and decided to see if we could convince our daughter.) My daughter thought about it and said, “OK, I’ll try it.” I was shocked. But why not try it?
So I got her in the shower. And at first she was nervous, and even a little upset when the water got close to her eyes, but then she was fine. And by the end, she loved it. Loved it. She started singing and dancing and made up a whole song about how much fun it is to take a shower. And when the water got near her eyes, she just blinked it away. SHE JUST BLINKED IT AWAY. I might have started to cry a little bit here myself. I was so thrilled! And then I went to get my husband so he could hear her shower song (which she’s been singing ever since, even when she’s not in the shower).
As parents, sometimes we create loops of expected behavior for our kids and ourselves. My daughter didn’t like getting water in her eyes, so I protected her from getting water in her eyes. So she never got used to the feeling of that water, or figured out how to fix it. And I kept protecting her, and she never had to deal with it. Over and over again until it was a thing, a line in the sand.
But as it turns out, she could do it. I was the one stuck on that loop of behavior, and she just broke right out of it.
Showering has opened my eyes to limitless possibilities. Maybe now she’ll be more comfortable with swimming in the pool! Maybe we will one day get her to actually eat a vegetable! (Though she spat out the roasted carrots I convinced her to try the other day.) Who knows what could be next?
As excited as I am about this new development, there’s a little bit of me that’s sad. Because sometimes, your child grows up right in front of you and even though you know they’re old enough, and they can do it, and they should do it, it still breaks your heart a little bit. Because she’s one step further away from being that little baby that I remember so well, whose cues I knew, and whose problems I could solve so easily. Back then, I knew when it was time for everything she needed. Now, I sometimes find myself at a loss. Is she ready for big-girl things? To go places on her own? To master riding that two-wheeler? How do I know when it’s time?
The thing is, I don’t always know. But my independent, sweet, and sassy almost-6-year-old is pretty clear on her own answers. I’m hoping we can figure it out together.