Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lost in the Bubble Garden

I used to be an integral part of the bedtime routine for Natalie, and it was a soggy proposition, as my responsibility was as the manager of bath time. I made sure the water was just the right temperature, as deftly precarious adjustments of the hot and cold knobs requires skill, patience and a knack to decide what is too hot and what is too cold for a two-year old. For that, I’m Goldilocks. Another aspect was to make sure that the bubble-to-bath ratio was at its optimum consistency, too many bubbles and you’re bathing in soapy clouds of eventual cold air and not enough and it’s like you’re trying to say clean in an oil slick.

For the past several months, my position as bath manager was put on sabbatical as Natalie preferred Kara to take care of the bath portion of the night. For the first few days, it was fine by me, as I got to start my night a little earlier, but after a while, I rather missed being a part of it. Frankly, I think her experience was lacking (Kara doesn’t allow frivolously ruckus splashing like I encourage), so Natalie changed back, reaffirming her allegiance to the master of the tub, me. Let's face it, there are some things daddies do better, and giving baths is one of them. Perhaps it is my method of initiating new and inventive ways to bath that helped her return to the old regime; for instance, I instigated “candle baths,” which are four purple and yellow candles at each corner of the bath and the lights off. It was relaxing, innovative and fun, plus Natalie got to blow out the candles, something she enjoys. On another occasion, I originated the concept of “moon baths,” and depending on the time of the month when the moon was full, they usually came in conjunction with candle baths, only with the windows open so Natalie can see the moon.

Way back when, bath time was a chore for everyone, especially me, as Natalie hated to take baths; it seems she didn’t like the idea of being wet, and forget trying to wash her hair. She’d sooner have it shaved off than get it wet because the water would run down into her eyes. The trick is to make it fast and make it fun. That’s where the splashing came into the mix. It seems the more she splashed the less she noticed that we’re actually taking a bath, and it was easier to get her clean if I tickled her with a soapy sponge than if I were to announce that we were going to use the sponge.

Now, she loves baths, but she doesn’t want to take one, if that makes sense. I think she hates the idea of taking a bath, but once she’s in there, she has a blast. I come out soaking wet from the waist up, the walls are wet, the carpet around the bath is wet and even the windows over the bath are water spotted. But she’s clean, and that’s what matters.

Most of the time in the bath, about 90 percent, is a game. The actual washing takes about three minutes; she's small and doesn't get really dirty. I splash her with my hand and she tries to catch it. When she does, she tells my hand to “Stop it” and, of course, I don’t. That’s where the laughing comes in and she usually gets into fits of giggling when she tries to stop the individual fingers from flicking the water at her. When she has all of the fingers captured so I can't move them, why, I've got another hand, don't I?

Another thing she does is splash back, and she’s discovered that her most effective weapon at her disposal is the double-handed slap on the surface of the water, and there’s some collateral damage (she gets wet too) but it is drenching for me. I noticed that right before her hands hit the water, she closes her eyes, and it is at that moment that I dredge up a handful of water and douse her back, making her think she’s doing it to herself. Underhanded? Sure, but it’s who gets the wettest, isn't it?

When we meet up with Mommy after the bath, Natalie looks as though she dunked her head, and Kara will ask me if I washed her hair. "Nope, just splashing."

Because of the influence of “Dora, the Explorer,” we go on adventures too, like searching for the frogs, exploring with the purple boats under the bubbles and making waves. That’s my specialty, making waves that lap at the top of the tub and then crash down, like Hokusai’s painting, and spinning Natalie into a whirlpool. She loves that. Tonight, Natalie got lost in the bubble garden, as she calls a large pile of bubbles in the corner of the tub, when she pushes herself deep into the bubbles so it spills over her shoulders.

Bubble beards... it's exactly what you think it is. I also give her a bubble coat, which she isn't too fond of, and that is a pile of bubbles packed onto her shoulders so it looks like she's wearing a fluffy, white jacket.

Sometimes she does her own thing, like rolling over and pretending she’s swimming, and even a couple of times, she’s slipped down and dunked herself completely. It’s a little scary for her, but if we laugh it off; she’s okay and she’ll go back to playing. While she’s playing her own games, I’ll play African Queen verses the Louisa with the little plastic boats.

“How'd you like it, Rose?”
“Like what, Mr. Allnut?”
“White water rapids!”
“Why, I never dreamed...”

So, I’m back… king of the bath, and it is an important bonding experience for Natalie and I, and I welcome the return to power. Spending quality time like this with her while she is still young is something I won’t get to do forever. Pretty soon, she’ll be too old to need my help... or want it. Until then, I’m king of the bath, and I don’t mind if I have to change my shirt and dry off after each one. It’s worth it.

In other news, she is feeling much better and we have very little plans for the weekend. Her rash is subsiding and she doesn’t complain of being sick… just in time for her five weeks home with Mommy, as Kara tracked off on Friday so we’ve got an empty plate the next few weeks. Sure, I’ll have to work, but I’m sure I can find other things to do instead.

Today, I cleaned out the garage and did yard work, and tomorrow, I start on the backyard. We’re planning a bunch of renovations, and I’ll keep you posted on the developments.

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