Like most parents, the good ones anyway, I take pride in my children’s burgeoning physical independence. First steps, last diaper, beginning of school, end of having to wipe them after they use the toilet (which—if no one has told you yet, let me—comes surprisingly much, much later than the last diaper), are all part of the independence process. Then one day you realize that not only do you not have to make sure they bathe themselves correctly, that frankly, they just want you out of the whole personal hygiene arena. Instead of bittersweet, I found this realization liberating!
But let’s face it, no matter how much I want to do my I’m free! I’m free! mommy-dance, the reality of water, soap, hard surfaces, sharp corners, and small electronic appliances all mingling in perilously close proximity to one another makes using the bathroom facilities fraught with hidden dangers to the developing child. So I still listen. I listen for the uninterrupted sound that water should make when hitting an upright child in the shower. I listen to make sure that the water is turned off before the showering process starts its third quarter hour. I listen for the sound of the plastic curtain opening, followed by the all-important two good solid thuds of wet feet on the bath mat before I can even think about dancing. Because my youngest is twelve, I suppose this amount of concentrated listening makes me an amateur, or even freakish, but I offer no excuses or apologies.
I don’t know where my excessive fear of mortal bathroom accidents comes from, but I have a guess. Maybe only those of us who have those hideous, molded-plastic shower surrounds in the tub/shower combo have this experience. Nothing, but nothing, really stays on the molded plastic shelves of that tub surround. By nothing, I mean the soap, the shampoo bottles, the body wash, whatever it is, all of our in-tub health and beauty aids seem to be watching the Acapulco Divers’ Channel late at night and are anxious to try out their skills while any member of my family takes a shower. Of course this always makes quite a racket. Who knew that an economy size shampoo bottle from Costco could sound so much like a not quite grown head whacking the side of the tub? Because of my long-practiced “listening” skills and extreme fleetness of feet, everyone in the house is trained to immediately report, “I’m okay” whenever shower stuff takes a dive or risk my showing up unannounced shower-side. It’s a little thing, but it keeps us all relatively happy.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the sound made by my twelve year-old’s shocking discovery that she had the strength to emancipate a ten pound ceramic soapdish fixture from its securely mortared position among the other tiles in the better, second shower! In her shock, both she and the fixture flew against the opposite wall of the shower but were apparently unharmed. I say apparently, because, happily, I was not home when it happened. When I arrived home, I was greeted by the large soap dish fixture, intact, balanced awkwardly and somehow dolefully, on the side of the tub. It was my husband who attended the crash. (And if I had to guess, I’d say it happened in the fourth quarter hour of the shower. I'm just saying.)
The twelve year-old was completely mortified. Based on her extreme embarrassment and sorrow, it was plain that she was completely responsible for pulling the damn thing clean off of the wall! But how? This is still not perfectly clear, but near as I can figure, she was using its integrated face cloth rack to simulate water-skiing.
But this is not the unintended consequence of which I wish to warn you.
Because we couldn’t risk getting the sub-wall wet, the fully-tiled shower was out of commission for a few weeks while my hunter husband gathered time and materials for the repair. Everyone had to use the other, Shower of the Clavadistas.
Now as the parent of any eleven to thirteen year-old can tell you, weird things start to happen to your kids at this age. They wake up one day and their faces just look different, your son begins to sound like his father, or worse, your daughter begins to smell like your father! In less extreme cases, they simply begin to change in countless little ways. So when I noticed that my daughter’s hair was particularly greasy, I just reminded her gently to brush it to distribute the oils. Later that same week, as I wondered when she had last taken a shower, she began to notice my concern over her clean smelling, but greasy looking hair. Finally, when I was certain that she only looked like she had applied a blob of VO-5 directly to her scalp, I felt an intervention was necessary. Much to her horror, I insisted on washing her hair.
Et, voila! After over two weeks of looking like she had some overactive sebaceous gland problem, my daughter’s appearance was back to normal.
So what happened?
Again, near as we can figure, the shower water-skiing form she had developed and perfected over years of independent bathing had somehow become an integral part of her personal hygiene process. Without it—gone by necessity at first, and by choice later—she had failed to successfully reorganize her showering procedure and the application of shampoo to her scalp was among its casualties.
This, my friends, is the unintended consequence of water-skiing in the shower: Mindless motions may make perfect procedures, but springing ceramic soapdishes from the wall will wreck the ways you wash. Or, in the effort to put the fun in perfunctory, don’t forget about the funk in function.
And with this cautionary tale for children and parents alike, we wish you a Fun, and Safe! Halloween.
[I am the twelve year-old in question, and I sort of approve this message.]