99% of the time Margot is the sweetest little gem of a tiny human. She’s gentle, full of joy, and carries a warm presence in her that makes me wonder how I’m the lucky one who gets to be her dad. Then there is that other one percent of the time when there are screams that sound as though they’re billowing from the black lungs of the devil himself. And nearly all of those times are connected to one regular occurrence: BATH TIME. Not even all of bath time. Most of her time splashing around is equally joyous. But when it’s time for her head and hair to meet that bathwater, all hell breaks lose. Last week we were right on the edge of that moment… bath time was in full swing, and it was time to wash her hair. It felt like that moment in Lord of the Rings before the epic battle for all of humanity.
But this time, it was different.
Normally I just take a deep breath, brace for the inevitable, and wash by force. This time, I paused. This time, while sitting on my knees at the edge of the tub, eye to eye, I told Margot it was almost time to wash her hair. She contested. Of course she did! I was compromising her sense of security and challenging what was comfortable for her. So this time I changed the play. I took her wet, pruney little hand in mine and said, “Margot, you know daddy loves you?” She nodded and said she loves dada too! — “And you know you’re safe with dada?” — She nodded. — “You know what, I know you don’t like water on your hair or in your face… but watch dada!” — And I tipped my head forward and poured water on my head and down my face. I then handed her the cup and said, “Go ahead, pour some water on dada’s face!” And she gleefully obliged. I laughed and talked about how the water tickled and she laughed too and told me I was silly. We continued this for a moment, then I took the cup and said, “Feel how it tickles!” And gently poured just a little water on the back of her head. She nervously laughed, but by the end of that bath, her head was clean, and we went from a moment of nervousness on the brink of chaos, to a moment of peace and trust. And also a clean kid.
See Margot Eloise didn’t actually have a problem with her hair getting washed. What she would bellow over was the fear of the unknown, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. And in those moments of complete vulnerability, she needed to know that everything was going to be okay. And not only that — if it was okay this time, it’ll probably be okay next time as well. It paved the way for a better tomorrow, because trust had been enriched rather than challenged.
I’d dare say that this is a pretty accurate picture of every one of us. We all want to know that we are safe, and that those closest can be trusted when we’re in a vulnerable state and we fear the worst. Conversely, we all have moments when we are confronting those we care for with a challenging scenario. What I’m reminded of is this: we all require an extra measure patience and love. I could have forcibly exercised my will versus Margot’s. And we know how that would have gone. But by humbling myself to the point of entering the moment with her — water down my own face — I showed her that I understand, that she is safe to trust me, and that I’m not above entering her world and her mess. Whew… if we could all be willing to do that for one-another.
I don’t know where you find yourself today — in the bath or bathing someone else. Possibly (probably) a little of both. But what I can say is — take a deep breath, go hand-in-hand, and it’ll be worth the effort. The only other options are clean but chaotic, or to just remain dirty and unattended.
Let’s double dose our patience and love, dear ones. It’s worth it for a better tomorrow.