Of babies and bathwater

For many years, I waged a secret war in the bathroom. In a heroic battle of good hygiene versus new motherhood, I strove valiantly to secure a bi-weekly shower. With three little ones endlessly underfoot, I employed a host of diversionary tactics designed to mislead and confuse the enemy. The purpose was clear: secure a few drops of clean water and shampoo before my kids started to cry.

Most days, I failed.

Yet when I succeeded, I took great pride in my mothering savvy and ingenuity. I would begin by marching all three sons into the bathroom and starting the shower. They were too little to be left alone to roam the house, so I needed to keep them within arm’s reach. While the shower water heated up, I made my move.

Baby Joey was always my first target. In one fell swoop, he got plopped into his colorful ExerSaucer along with a handful of Cheerios. Joey instantly went to work on his cereal, demonstrating a near-perfect pincer grasp which did my heart proud. Next up were my two- and three-year old boys. Armed with cans of shaving gel, I instructed Dan and Jack to build the largest, most impressive shaving foam gel mountain the world had ever known. They immediately started covering my entire bathroom vanity and sink with dollops of cream.

It was a small price to pay for the eight minutes of peace I got before a counter-attack was staged. It usually coincided directly with the depletion of Cheerios or Skintimate Berry Shaving Gel. I considered it a victory if I could get even one leg shaved.

My war wounds were evident. I cut my leg to pieces with the razor because the kids had possession of all my shaving products. A small sacrifice in the name of truth and purity.

Even with wet hair, questionable deodorant application, and elastic-waist pants, I somehow managed to feel like I’d won as I headed out of my house without even a glimmer of boogars or baby puke anywhere on my person.

It dawned on me about a year and a half ago that perhaps it was now safe to start locking the bathroom door. I was confident in my boys’ ability to not burn down the house in eight minutes. I explained to them words like “privacy” and “modesty” to help reinforce the idea that we all need private naked time. They laughed every time I said “naked,” so I wasn’t entirely sure I was getting through.

During my first solo shower in five years, there were three interruptions. Jack banged on the door to ask where he could find batteries for his Leapster. I yelled out some choice words, and he quickly scampered away in search of more receptive doorways. A few minutes later, a newly potty-trained Joey was knocking and demanding to be wiped. Eck. I threw on my robe and tended to his needs. I returned to the shower with shampoo still in my hair for a final rinse when I heard Daniel knocking and making a request for Gatorade.

Lecture #2 was conducted within moments, and it basically guaranteed harsh punishment for anyone who dared bother mommy in the shower again. Between clenched and chattering teeth (I was still dripping), I outlined my very short list of acceptable reasons to knock on the door while I was in the bathroom:

  1. A bloodied or broken child;
  2. The house was on fire; or
  3. The Publisher’s Clearinghouse Prize Patrol was at the door.

No more knocking. No more talking. No more kids. They all nodded their heads in apparent understanding, and I was confident I had gotten my message across this time.

The next day, I again headed to my steamy escape with a brand new bottle of Skintimate Strawberry shaving gel and a sunny disposition. The “click” of the door as I locked it behind me was almost surreal. I knew I had put the fear of God into the boys, so I didn’t even consider another bathroom intrusion was possible.

Yet before I could lather up, I spied a note being shoved under the bathroom door. Curious, I leaned over to read the message:

Mommy – can we have a cooky? Pleez check yes or no

Within seconds, a new note appeared:

Mommy – Joey hit Danny. Can we put him in time-out?

And finally, the last note:

Mommy – Can you take us to Chuck E. Cheese today? We’ll be good and not bother you in the shower. Circle yes.

I’m not sure who I blame. Myself? My kids? My parenting? Or the Chicago Public School system for teaching the kids to write?

I’ve taken to hiding their notebook paper and crayons. Yet the boys’ ears perked up the other day as my husband watched a special on World War II.

Hey, Mommy! Do you know Morse code?”

Just what I need.

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