Hopefully, the title of this entry won’t overexcite any stray West Ham fans, who have stumbled across my blog whilst trying this ‘reading’ thing they’ve heard so much about, since the following has absolutely nothing to do with their football club.
People often ask me what bath time is like at our house (note: may not be true) and, assuming they don’t want an in-depth account of my own bathing routine – although I’m happy to dedicate a later entry to this, if the demand is out there – I have opted instead to provide a typical account of our boys’ pre-bed bath time.
Generally speaking, I am in charge of running the bath, which is less to do with my profound skills of temperature-gauging (with an elbow, obvs) and bubble-maximisation, and more to do with the fact that it allows me five minutes of peace and quiet to sit on the toilet in our bathroom, checking my e-mails and Facebook. So long as I audibly swirl the water every thirty seconds or so, my wife is non-the-wiser. Well, until she reads this.
When it’s time to (rather reluctantly) shout down that the bath is ready, I can often hear my wife trying to coax the boys away from the television and up the stairs. As you might imagine, this is usually a struggle, since if there is one thing that young boys hate, it’s moving one step closer to bed.
To combat this, she has designed a clever little routine, whereby she will loudly announce ‘last one up the stairs smells like Daddy’. Harsh. Sadly, rather than protest ‘But mother dear, Daddy smells simply divine’ (or something less camp and middle-class), the threat of smelling like me is usually enough for them to immediately sprint for the stairs. I wouldn’t mind so much, but I personally think I do smell quite nice most of the time, and the irony is, it’s usually my wife who follows the boys upstairs (to make sure neither of them sneaks back down), so it’s her who smells like me anyway. Serves her right for being mean.
Isaac, being two, still requires assistance getting undressed ready for the bath, whereas Ollie, who is now six, is able to almost completely strip himself. I say ‘almost completely’, because I swear to God, if he tries to climb into the bath with a single sock left on just one more time, I’m not going to be responsible for my actions. It’s like he is missing whatever part of the brain is responsible for acknowledging the left foot.
In the time it takes for Ollie’s final item of clothing to be removed (and for him to burst into tears because ‘Daddy called me an idiot’), Isaac usually appears in the bathroom and proudly announces to everyone he is ‘nudey’. We can see this for ourselves, naturally, but he likes to make certain we are all fully-appreciating his naked form.
Once Ollie has climbed into the bath, more often than not with his pasty-white buttocks passing dangerously close to my face (although I suppose I would prefer that to him facing the other way), I then have to catch Isaac mid ‘nudey dance’, and lift him in too.
Naturally, we recognise the universal rule of ‘eldest goes tap end’, and Ollie will park himself accordingly, but lately Isaac has refused to sit down for several minutes, insisting instead on standing there and protesting that the water is ‘too cold’. The first few times this happened, I topped up the bath with more hot water, but he still insisted it was too cold for him to sit down. It got to the point where I was adding so much extra hot water, I could have cooked a lobster in there, so eventually I would have to force him to sit down – by tickling the backs of his knees.
It took me some time – and on the verge of a trip to Leighton Hospital’s burns unit – to realise Isaac doesn’t know his ‘cold’ from his ‘hot’, hence why no amount of additional water from the hot tap was appeasing him.
Even now, when I deliberately try to make the bath cold, he still insists the water is above a temperature at which he would be happy, so he’s either got into the habit of automatically saying it regardless of my efforts, or he’s just doing it to piss me off.
Once both boys are successfully submerged, my first challenge is to get them to brush their teeth. This might seem strange, but we have found it far easier to combine washing and teeth brushing at the same time, for two main reasons:
- There is less chance of forgetting to do it;
- Ollie, in particular, has a habit of getting toothpaste all down himself, so it’s preferable to brush his teeth while he’s naked, and easier to clean.
Once that’s out of the way, we start the process of actually washing them. Ollie has got quite good at the lathering-up element of bathing, so I usually leave him to his own devices, but he is truly woeful at rinsing off the soap afterwards. Many a time I have forgotten, and I only become aware of how soapy his underarms still are, when I go to lift him out of the tub and he slips out of my hands, ending up somewhere north of our bed in the adjacent room.
Isaac, like most toddlers, doesn’t like being soaped up, and will endeavour to escape me and my lathered hands by any means possible, seemingly unaware of the fact he is restrained to one half of a 5.5’ x 2.5’ ceramic bath tub. Despite the odds, he is surprisingly adept at evading me, and it can often take a few minutes to complete the soaping process, amid wild thrashing and squeals (some of which is him). Imagine covering your hands in slippery liquid soap, and then trying to clean a particularly-agile cat, and you’d be half way there.
It is usually around this point that Ollie will realise bath time is coming to an end, with only the hair-washing (which neither of them enjoy) to complete before going to bed, so he will often try to distract me, either by entering into a conversation about football, or by attempting to start a game.
One such delaying tactic, which he applied this week, genuinely went as follows:
Ollie: “Daddy, let’s play a game”
Me: “Such as?”
Ollie: “Let’s do an A-Z list”
Me: “What of? And don’t say football teams, films, or children in your year at school, as we’ve done those a million times.”
Ollie: “Oh. Ok. How about dinosaurs?”
Ollie: “Come on, Daddy. It’s easy. I’ll start….Achelousaurus.”
Me: “Fuck off.” (slightly exaggerated, but it was along those lines)
Ollie: “Daddy! B is easy. You must know a dinosaur beginning with B!”
Me: “Oh. Oh, yeah. Brontosaurus.”
Ollie: “Good one!”
Me: “Don’t be patronising.”
Ollie: “What does that mean?”
Me: “Never mind. C.”
Ollie: “Oh. Erm…. I can’t think of one.”
Me: “Ollie! C is easy. You must know a dinosaur beginning with C!”
Ollie: “Do you?”
Me: “Well, no. But that’s not the point. It’s your stupid game, and we’re stuck already. Isaac, any thoughts?”
Me: “Thanks, Isaac.”
All the while, I could hear my wife laughing at us from the bedroom (wouldn’t be the first time she’s laughed at me in the bedroom), and I initially assumed this was because we were struggling with Ollie’s pathetic game, but it turned out she had looked online to try and help us, and had discovered a dinosaur called ‘Fukuisaurus’.
A rare shot of both boys smiling in the bath
Once teeth have been brushed and ridiculous games have been played, the next – and most difficult – challenge, is washing their hair. This is usually the last step before trying to get them out and ready for bed, partly because I need to distance myself from them once the ordeal is over.
Isaac has got marginally more tolerant of having his hair washed lately, but still doesn’t like it, and Ollie would claim there was soapy water in his eyes even if I had tipped the jug of water down the sink and nowhere near him. Honestly, he’s such a wuss (but I sympathise slightly, as I hate getting water in my eyes too).
After their hair has been washed, I then attempt to get them out of the bath and into their towels. Amazingly, despite the reluctance to get in there not fifteen minutes earlier, they both then decide that the bath is infinitely better than going to bed, and they refuse to leave. Ollie can usually be persuaded/sufficiently threatened within a few minutes, but Isaac will scream as soon as I try to lift him out. I can’t win.
When the boys were babies, I used to enjoy the father-son bonding that bath time provided, but nowadays I more often than not leave the bathroom a soaked and broken man.
An even rarer shot of me smiling at bath time
There’s no entry next week, as we’re off to Disneyland Paris (sadly, we’re having to take the boys with us, too). Hmmm, a week in France surrounding by oversized irritating cartoon characters – surely there’s no comedy blog material to be had there…..?