That’s right in my house we have Bath Day. A day assigned for bathing.
My kids opt out of hygiene not for any strongly held philosophical or environmental reasons. No, my kids’ motives are really quite simple. They like filth. Or, rather, they prefer grime to the effort required to wash it off.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this unfortunate situation, but I may be alone in my enforcement of bath time.
I’m not militant about it. When my daughter was a terrible toddler and I was in the trenches fighting her on myriad issues, I just couldn’t take on one more. Now, with karate, girl scouts, boy scouts, homework, work work, dinner, dirty dishes and laundry some days there just isn’t enough time.
Early on to avoid protests and put down revolts I devised a bathing routine and appointed actual Bath Days. I picked Wednesdays and Saturdays. While I was aware this was a substandard hygiene routine, it was the only way I could manage to minimize conflict and keep them somewhat clean. At the mention of a bath they’d still complain. “But we just took a bath,” they’d whine to which, I’d reply, “That was three days ago.” Then they’d slink toward the bathroom moaning, “Why do we have to take another bath?” I would sing happily, “Because it’s Bath Day.” And that would end it. They couldn’t argue with that.
The days chosen were based on a carefully considered set of criteria: the kids’ number of public appearances and how long they could go before they would cause a public health crisis. I figured with a bath on Saturday they’d start off the school week fine. Monday they’d still be fairly fresh. Tuesday they’d be a bit tattered. By Wednesday their hair would be matted and their upper lip and chin stained with Hi-C, but, hey, it was Bath Day. Thursday was their purest day of the week, and Friday was just one more day before Bath Day.
We had been practicing questionable hygiene for years when the topic arose one day in conversation with my best girlfriend. It was just after she had her first child, but before she had to face the million and one demands a tiny person can place on you. As a new mom, she did what all first timers are prone to do - she compared parenting notes with other moms and judged. After a day out with another novice mom, she relayed to me her horror upon finding her friend only bathed her child once a week.
“That’s disgusting,” she said with a sneer. “Kids get dirty. How could you not bathe them more than that?”
“I don’t know,” I concurred, neglecting to tell her about the system I’d developed. As a veteran mom I knew she would soon discover the endless responsibilities of parenting and realize she, too, must cut some corners.
I’ll admit my system isn’t perfect, but it works. The only time I run into problems is when I have to change Bath Day due to scheduling conflicts. This completely confuses my kids. They just don’t get it. They cannot comprehend why bathing is required at all, let alone compulsory. All they know is if it’s not Bath Day they don’t need a bath, and I’m left justifying the switch in days and coaxing them into the tub. My only hope is that in time they will come to see bathing not as an evil burden on their lives but as a beneficial act, maybe even a pleasant one.
The funny thing is after all those years of convincing, cajoling and arguing, my kids actually like baths. When they finally get in, they don’t want to come out. It seems, what they really like is fighting me on it.