We don't bathe a lot. I have to admit that. I wipe the dirty spots - faces, hands, occasionally knees and feet. That gets the girls through the week. We try to submerge them entirely in water at least once before church on Sunday. Pool water qualifies.
Poor Will has had slightly more baths than the number of months he is old. Though recently he's started "feeding" himself - little bits of banana or granola bar that largely miss his mouth and get mushed on him or his seat or at times licked off his hand by the dog, much to their mutual delight. So he's gotten too much gunk in the creases. Yesterday I put him in some warm water on the clean side of the kitchen sink. He was so intrigued with the running water (probably because of its novelty) I had to take a picture. Plus, he looked so cute beside that big pile of dirty dishes. (It was a great opportunity to address those, too.)
As for me, I find myself thinking about washing myself as I used to think about washing my hair: "Oh good, I don't have to take a shower today. I took one the day before yesterday." Then there comes a day when I think, "Eegh. I've got to take a shower today." But it might be a day and a half before I get around to it. It's just, when am I going to do it? I could shower during naptime or after the kids' bedtime, but that cuts into the time I have for cooking, cleaning, sleeping, reading, and sitting on the couch eating chocolate candy while watching The Biggest Loser. I suppose I could wake up in the morning before the children get up, but...it's really not that important to me.
But today I noticed a warm, earthy, animal-ish smell, and I thought, "That is not socially acceptable in this country." Of course, it might be these clothes. It doesn't help that my laundry is always the last to be done. While it is comforting to think of myself as being very European, and also environmentally friendly - think of the water I'm conserving - I'd better take a shower and throw in a load.
A friend asked me the other day, "Are you ready for Number Four?"
I said, "I have arms wide open. I can wait, but if I was pregnant right now, I'd be happy."
She said, "Wouldn't you be...overwhelmed?"
We had a good laugh when I said, "How could I possibly be more overwhelmed than I am now?"
Really, by the time I have another one, Grace will be old enough to help more. At the very least, she'll be able to brush her own teeth and buckle herself into the car. Right now, we have a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and an eight-month-old. Our life is almost all children: feeding, caring for, teaching, and yes, sometimes bathing them fills up the middle and has pushed everything else out to the edges - things like hygiene and taking down the Christmas tree.
When Grace was a baby, we had a beautiful nightly ritual. Every night after dinner, I would get in the bathtub and take her in with me, on my lap. I'd wipe her gently top to toe while she looked around with her dark eyes, silently studying everything. The water was warm around us and her body was solid and warm against mine. I love us doing that together.
I have to smile at the contrast with today: my children and me making our way to the car together after picking Grace up at preschool, all four of us, Will in my arm, my hands full of papers Grace made, holding her hand with my pinky, nudging Emma with my voice, opening the door with my elbow. But I love today too. Outside, we were moving so slowly that I had plenty of time to look up and see that the sky was a stunning blue. The wind was swaying the shade trees, and I felt the air, between cool and warm, as a caress.
Passing by us with his daughter, another parent said, "You've got your hands full!"
Yes, I do. It's a good word for it: full, like a fed belly, full with these solid, warm little bodies, with these little beings and their sparkling conversations, with their flitting presences, with their chaos, full, like the wings of a mother hen gathering in her chicks.