Dirty deeds in the name of science
In the name of science, I conducted a very important experiment last week. How dirty, I wondered, could an 18-month-old get while on a bath strike?
My hypothesis was this: very dirty.
It was a bold hypothesis, and a risky one, too. Lucy eats a lot of beans, and very often, they don’t all make it into her mouth. On more than one occasion, I have removed them from her folds. So, I knew full well that one might sprout and turn into a beanstalk. While this might help Lucy catch up to her peers in height, it would also make her a freak.
This was a risk I was willing to take, in the name of science.
And also in the name of laziness. When Lucy goes on a bath strike, coaxing her back into the water is a challenge. It takes weeks. It takes patience. And it takes stripping down to a pair of shorts. In other words, it takes things I am not willing to give. Especially on the shorts end, because my legs are hairy, scaly and pale. It’s wrong that anyone, let alone me, should have to look at them.
So, Lucy went for days without a bath. Sure, I rubbed her down with diaper wipes. But a chilly diaper wipe is no substitute for the cleaning powers of warm water, soap and an actual washcloth. What’s more, we went on an airplane, ate “I’ll give you this if you don’t scream when we reach cruising altitude” chocolate, then ran around Santa Fe, had tea parties, sat in puddles, hoarded rocks, rubbed ketchup in our hair, caught a very wet cold and encased our heads in snot.
By we, I mean Lucy.
After three days like this, she was pretty gross.
“Lucy,” I said. “Do you want to take a bath?”
“Lucy,” I said, “C’mon. How about a BUBBLE bath?”
“Lucy,” I said. “Do you know what NO means?”
“Candy,” she said.
“Yes, no candy,” I replied, giving up.
It was the same after four days, five days, six days, and so on. By the ninth day, she smelled like chowder, which was strange, because we hadn’t eaten any. Because of an art project she did with her babysitter, Laramie, Lucy also looked like she’d just finished participating in a pagan religious ceremony. Her toes were covered in eye-shaped stamps, and she had stars and butterflies stamped onto each leg.
During past bath strikes, which usually come about after an especially unfortunate diaper incident requires an emergency tub, I’ve tried forcing Lucy into the water. This, I have learned, is a very bad idea. If she’s covered in poop, it means I will soon be wearing a watery poop slurry when she leaps out of the water and into my arms, screaming. Even if Lucy is merely covered in chowder, it means her bath strike has just been extended another few weeks.
There is usually one failsafe I use to get stains out of both clothes and my child. And that is to take the dirty item to my mother. She removed a permanent ink stain from Adam’s favorite pair of pants. And I was confident she’d get the ketchup and pagan marks off of Lucy.
Mom is so clean she used to wash us in a powerful hospital disinfectant, until she learned it was linked to brain damage. Reluctantly, she gave it up, but only after determining that some of us really didn’t have a lot of brains to spare.
I was confident Mom would be so disgusted by Lucy’s smell, she’d have her disinfected, and most likely undamaged by my return.
But no. Mom did not do my dirty work. When I picked Lucy up, she was awake and happy and stinky, long past her bedtime.
So, the next day, I did the only sensible thing: I took Lucy to a public pool 20 miles away, where people wouldn’t know us, and where our tax dollars would not be spent washing away the giant tub ring.
Soon, the toe eyes and leg stamps were gone. So was the smell. Lucy was three shades lighter, and her hair, once again, had curls instead of corners. And, happily, Lucy’s bath strike had ended by the next day.It’s going to take me a lot longer to recover, though. When I was in the pool with Lucy, I saw my legs. Sweet merciful crap. The toe eyes aren’t going to do it; the only way I’ll be able to face these babies again is if they’re covered in butterfly and star stamps. And maybe an entire bottle of ketchup.