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It Takes A Family To Bathe A Baby

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned
before, Maddie loves to help take care of Baby Sister. Feeding,
burping, dressing, rocking, all are special fun things to do in
Maddie’s mind. Nothing, however, is quite so fun as giving
Cora a bath.

I think what fascinated Maddie from the
start was the baby-sized bathtub; in Maddie’s world, where
she’s got a miniature kitchen, a dolly highchair, and an
Elmo-sized stroller, the small bathtub seemed the missing piece of
her collection. Add that to her exuberant love affair of all sports
water-related and you’ve got an irresistible combination. So
irresistible, in fact, that Maddie will sometimes look at Cora and
exclaim, “Cora needs a bath, Mommy,” just so
she’ll have something to do.

When the rest of us agree with Maddie that Li’l Bit does,
indeed, need a bath, the exciting process begins. The baby bath is
brought up from the basement as Maddie’s eyes grow big and
she exclaims, “Ooooh! Oh, boy!” We set the bath up on a
kitchen counter that’s accessible from the dining room as
well, so there’s plenty of room on either side of the tub for
people to stand.

And boy, do we need room for people. This baby cannot be bathed by
less than three people. Brian takes Cora back for the disrobing
while I start to get the water warm and into the tub. If I take too
long, Maddie exclaims impatiently, “Get out my stool,
Mommy!” Out comes her stepstool, set up on one side of the
tub. In goes the water (“Not too warm, Mommy!” Maddie
cautions.) and out comes the bath gel and washcloth. Naked Baby is
brought ceremoniously out from the bedroom, clad only in a loose
diaper, eyes wide with interest (and probably some apprehension).

Then the bathing begins.

Brian and I take turns holding the slippery sucker while the other
one soaps and scrubs. Cora’s grown to love this – or at
least accept it – and sits silently, dignified, a Queen
receiving the adoration and ministrations that are her due.
Maddie’s job is to keep Cora from getting cold, and her task
is twofold: first, she covers Cora’s tummy with a washcloth
to keep Cora wet and warm. Second, she stands by with a small
plastic pouring cup, ready to either rinse off soapsuds or simply
periodically douse Cora with water to keep her from chilling off.

If you could see a video tape of this production, here’s what
you’d see: a man and a woman on either side of the tub,
alternating between cursing under our breaths as the baby slips out
of our grasp AGAIN and scrubbing ferociously at the cradle cap or
gunk behind the ears. But the best part of the video would be the
toddler standing stock-still on her stool, holding a small cup of
warm water, intoning, “I’m waiting. I’m waiting.
I’m waiting,” over and over in what is her idea of an
impression of a jaded butler, until one of the adults finally says,
“And, right leg . . . POUR!”, at which point the
toddler gleefully pours the contents of her cup, then scoops up
several more to pour for good measure. After assuring said leg is
rinsed, she dishes up one more scoop of water, stands still, then
starts again: “I’m waiting. I’m waiting.
I’m waiting.”

Cora is a pretty good sport through all this, not crying until
she’s been out of the tub for a few minutes and starts to
cool off. At this point, she realizes the scope of the near-death
experience she just had and begins to wail appropriately.
World-weary Maddie shakes her head and says, “Cora’s
not happy.”

The last time we gave Cora a bath (no, we don’t do it every
night – how dirty can an immobile infant get??) I looked
around at my family assembled there and thought, There’s
definitely an easier way to do this.

And then I thought, Why would I want it?


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