Bath time is always a struggle for us. Can you relate, mamas? One child is usually overly tired and being a general maniac, taking full cups of water and pouring them all over the floor, or kicking wildly in the tub and ruining the walls. Another is adamantly refusing to get undressed, running down the hall to instigate a game of chase that neither her papa nor I are interested in pursuing. We always aim to make the process as short as possible, but if we're downstairs within an hour, it's a modern-day miracle.
Between the soap-ups, potty times, teeth brushing, pajama picking out and story reading, I feel like I bend and move more during that last hour together than any other part of the day. It honestly wears me out and grinds on my nerves. How can two tiny people, who are so obviously exhausted, fight a delicious slumber so fiercely, especially when I'd give anything for someone to encourage me to take a hot bath and send me to bed early?
Yet, I realized last night, long after they'd given up the fight and drifted off to dreamland, that it won't always be like this. One day, my son will declare that he's taking shower and head upstairs to do precisely that. Or, my daughter will lounge in the tub for hours with a magazine and a lit candle like I used to do as a teen. Soon enough, no one will need me to bend down and wash them anymore and there will be no more heads to shampoo. They'll outgrow both me and their baby baths, swapping out their baby suds and soft washcloths for shower gel and loofahs.
I'm at a unique time in my life where I'm discovering how quickly time passes and what's really important amid this day-to-day grind that threatens to consume and overwhelm us. If I let it, work can overtake my mind and I can get bogged down by the incredible amount of obligations on my plate. There are to-do lists a mile long; meals to prep, buy and create; meetings to attend and phone calls to make. But, there are also two little people looking and reaching up to me, who depend on me to be their caretaker and constant. I'm their referee and cook, therapist and nurse. What a glorious privilege to be all of those -- and what a fleeting one.
My husband's grandmother is in a nursing home right now. She went through a few difficult trials before being admitted to the top-rated one in the state. She has her meals created fresh every day, cut flowers in her room at all times and plenty of social activities to attend. We were visiting her the other day and I remarked on how lovely the environment was. She grabbed my hand and whispered words I'll never forget: "This place is nice, but it's not home. As much as I appreciate all these things being done for me, I miss doing them for someone else."
Here is someone who's earned the right to relax and let others do for her. A lifetime of service to others -- to her children, her family, her job at the hosiery mill and her church, should be a badge to chill for the remainder of the time, right? Turns out, there's a bit of loss that occurs when the responsibility of caring for someone is no longer on our shoulders.
Of course, as parents, that duty never really leaves completely. I'll still be fussing over my babies when they're 50 years old and a head taller than me, bringing their babies and grandbabies home for Sunday lunch. I'll always worry about their well-being and call to check in.
But this time of hair washing, hand holding, diaper changing, nugget cooking, and shoe tying? Some days, I think it will never end and I count down the seconds until my husband comes home from work. Yet, I know deep down that when it actually does and they're self-sufficient enough to cross the road without my guidance or make their own meals in their college dorm, my hands will be a little lost and my heart will too. Until then, I'll revel in the mundane and find joy in the doing, for I'll only be needed for so long.