Listen, I love my kids. But they’re gross. My kids could get dirty in a sterile operating room. I don’t understand it. At any given point they’re either sticky, dirty, smelly, or a combination of all three. So, like most good parents, we try to bathe them at least semi-regularly. Here’s a breakdown of the process.
The first thing you want to do is announce in a calm but firm voice that it’s bath time. You should try to do this in a room with the least amount of exits possible. The fewer ways these stinky crumb gremlins can escape, the better. You should also “prep” the room by removing any sharp objects and covering any reflective surfaces as your dirt-covered noisemakers may startle easily. Having your spouse stand just outside the room with a butterfly net and/or candy is effective as a secondary means of containment if and when your crumb snatchers panic. I have four kids. Rounding them up can be a challenge sometimes. Luckily our middle two haven’t quite developed their hand-eye coordination and frequently faceplant during their attempted flight from deodorization. Our youngest is still in the squishy paperweight phase, so she gets bathed in the kitchen sink. Our oldest has a mean head-fake and often gets past her less-than-agile dad but is usually scooped up in secondary containment by her mother.
Once you have them all in the bathroom, it’s time to draw the bathwater. I’ve had people suggest doing this beforehand. The problem with that is A) when the dirt goblins hear the tub filling up they run and B) if they do escape, by the time they’re caught the bath water is usually too cold and has to be re-drawn. No, it’s better to wait until you have them cornered in the bathroom. When they hear the tub filling up, they usually accept their fate and prepare for the inevitable.
Unless they don’t. Open rebellion is also a possibility. My 2-year-old is usually the leader of the resistance. Her most-employed tactic is to crap in the bathtub. Once this happens, I have to get them all out of the tub, empty the water, disinfect everything, refill the tub, and drain it again to remove cleaning agent residue. All the while my wife is hosing the girls down in our stand-up shower with the handheld shower head.
If by some miracle our 2-year-old doesn’t crap in the tub, it’s time for the actual cleaning portion of the process. Now, some people will take the hands-on approach of getting a washcloth or one of those poofy things and scrubbing their kids down. Ha! Amateurs. I’ve found a much more effective method– a bubble bath. I’m not talking about Mr. Bubble and his bubblegum-scented bullshit. That stuff is nowhere near strong enough to handle the funk film that my kids carry around. You need something much stronger. Cue the Dawn dish detergent. They use this stuff to clean animals affected by industrial disasters and catastrophic oil spills. Sounds like the right stuff.
The most effective method is to take a about a tablespoon of Dawn and add it to the bathwater. Then, grab a bath toy and offer it to one of your kids. The other kids will ask you to let them have it instead. Then, drop the toy in the middle of them and watch the child-powered agitating action that comes from three kids fighting over a toy. You should have some extra towels on hand for the inevitable splashing of the walls, ceiling, and floor that will occur. Rain gear is also recommended but not required.
After a brief but messy struggle, a victor should emerge. Your kids should now be squeaky clean with no hand-scrubbing required. It’s best to get them out of the tub one at a time, as they will try to get past you and run through the house naked, trailing as much water as possible along their route. Much like when you were trying to round them up for the bath, you should have a secondary means of containment with a towel ready to capture and dry off any now-slippery scream demons.
The goal is to get them in and out of the bathtub before they realize what has happened. Upon donning clean pajamas, their first instinct will be to run outside and play in the first dirt pile they can find. They can’t help it. It’s just in their nature to get dirty again as soon as possible. This behavior is especially prevalent after you’ve gotten them dressed for a formal function. This can be avoided by distracting them with dessert or popcorn and a Disney movie.
Finally, enjoy the next approximately twenty minutes that they remain clean and odor-free. Because, let’s face it, they’re probably going to find a way to get dirty again before bed.
P.S.- We don’t actually use Dawn dish detergent on our kids. That would be cruel. We’ve found that GOJO works better and leaves them with a refreshing citrus smell.