Once upon a time, when June was about one, she loved her bath. She loved pouring water from one cup to another, running her hands in the warm water and playing with her seemingly endless supply of cheap plastic toys. She was oblivious to the water I’d pour on her head. All was right with the world.
And then one day, quite out of the blue, dipping her into bath water became synonymous with a water boarding session at Guantanamo. “Noooooooooooo!” She’d wail. “I don’t want the bath! MY EYES! MY EYES! AAAAARGH!”
If so much as a trickle of water got into her eyes, she’d scream like an enemy combatant being “plied” for information by the CIA. She’d wail from the moment she got in the tub to the moment her PJs were on. Our once relaxing routine became stressful and fraught. Nerves were shot. Tempers flared and June seemed pretty out of it too. Jake would come in the bathroom while I hunched ferret-like over the tub trying to wash her . “Do you want me to take over?” He’d ask. “No, I can handle it,” I’d say meekly. “Can you get me more wine?”
After more than a few of those episodes, I tried the “tough mom” approach. “It’s just water,” I said to June as she protested. “It’s not gonna kill you.”
To demonstrate this concept, I rubbed bath water all over my face and eyes and said, “Aaah! Feels so good! Like an Irish Spring!”
I forgot I was wearing non-soluble mascara at the time, forcing me to blink back tears of pain while looking to her like a scary zombie with raccoon eyes. She cried more. Bath time actually became worse. I began to wonder if maybe our well water contained traces of cyanide that was poisoning her.
I called my mother-in-law — a mom of six — for advice. “What I do?” I asked. “She hates the tub. I hate it. We both hate it. If this keeps up, I’m going to be picking dust balls from behind her ears.”
Marmie said she experienced the same thing with four or five of her kids, and the only remedy she’s found that works is making bath time as fast as possible: Get her in, get her out. Trying to show or teach June that her fear is irrational only prolongs the misery. Besides, what fear is logical and rational to a 2 year old? Poo-pooing her bath-phobia is like someone trying to tell me that snakes are actually super friendly and here, hold my boa constrictor. Not gonna happen. My terror-meter will still be set to 10,000.
So bath time has become a three minute affair. No sooner does June’s feet get wet that we’re entering final rinse phase. And I find I much prefer warp speed cleaning sessions because it means I don’t have endlessly negotiate with and placate an upset two year old. And I just bought her a pair of goggles to wear in the tub, which she loves.