He coos and kicks- happy to be out of a diaper and exposed to the fresh air. Babies are always happiest when naked. His strong legs are sporting a new roll of baby fat. He’s growing fast. I start the water in the tub- not as hot as I would like but a good temp for a three-month old. I wrap him in a receiving blanket and we submerge ourselves. Lavish. As I gently ladle water over him I am aware… my God, we are rich.
He is my fourth child but this moment is still novel. Always novel. And fleeting. Just days ago I was putting my firstborn into the sink in our little two bedroom house- our first home. Then my mind takes inventory; an evolution in bathing my children. The first child got bathed in the kitchen sink. The second, likely the sink as well… I can’t actually remember because he came in such rapid succession to the first. The third was bathed in a giant inflatable ducky tub at the urging of her two older brothers and perhaps her father as well. It was an utterly impractical method but somehow appropriate for our little princess. A princess and not a prince. New, different, fun and a little bit of a spectacle. Yes… very appropriate.
But never this. Never me and the little one, skin to skin, cooing and staring and soaking it all in. Quite literally soaking in the moment… twenty minutes of calm bliss in the midst of a very busy life. Tender, pure and divine. Why? Why didn’t I ever do this with my other children?
Funny how a simple bath can tell you a lot -or at least a litttle- about yourself. Four children and a better part of a decade have changed me. I didn’t do this before because I didn’t know. I didn’t know that no matter how many children you have you don’t reclaim those first moments. Those early days of intimate need fly with violence towards the years of independence and instruction. Care that is so simple, so instinctual, rapidly morphs into something not so simple and counter to nearly every natural tendency. I didn’t know how quickly those months were going to pass. I didn’t know that I needed to fight to slow down. I didn’t know that I needed to take every chance I got to hold them and memorize their face and let them return in kind. And I didn’t know to let God breath meaning into the everyday things that just have to get done. Like bathing the children.
I also didn’t know myself. I bathed my son in the sink because my mom bathed her babies in the sink. Because that’s “what mom’s do”. But in the journey of four children I’ve found my own way. To some measure those primitive assumptions and habits that came from the concept of mothering, have been perfected or eradicated as mothering went from idea to reality. I’ve found what works for me. What I do has become “what mom’s do” in my own mind because I AM a mother. I still love gleaning from the women who’ve come before me but I am staunchly aware that, in most things, what works for one does not always for another.
And each child is different. If there were ever a defining factor to champion the cause of large families it would have to be the wonderous diversity of each individual child. Here, in the warm water I am not holding a child. I am holding him. That little person. He already has his own story, his own wonder, his own way about him. Similar yes… but wholly unique. The snowflake creation of the infinite Creator. Awe and wonder.
So perhaps this a little bit of a silly topic. But such is my life and He continues to find ways to breathe revelation and wonder into the silly and the simple. A chronology of bath time, used to help me take stock. To recognize the innate diversity in each of my little ones. and to affirm me in this journey. I am not who I was and likely will not always be who I currently am. Bath time has changed largely because I have changed.
It, for the better, and hopefully me too.