A short, yet true, story.
The little girl, not quite two, loved to take a bath, and considering how messy she managed to get each evening at dinner, she usually went immediately from the dinner table into the tub. Today was no different, especially after eating half of a half of an ice cream sandwich. Well, eating isn’t quite the right word. It was more wearing than eating, but she did manage to lick the strawberry ice cream off her fingers a few times. She had never had strawberry ice cream before and even the casual observer could tell that she liked it, yet the texture and the feel of it were much more entertaining in her hands.
After her parents finished clearing the table and cleaning up after dinner, the little girl’s mom began to fill the tub. The little girl began to repeat “bub” to herself like no one was in the room. She was almost muttering it unintentionally as she swirled what remained of the strawberry ice cream around on her tray. “Bub” she said again as her mom walked back into the kitchen to retrieve her from her chair. As she lifted the little girl out of the booster seat, she grabbed her mother’s arms and her hands stuck there for a brief moment. The ice cream was almost dry on her hands, but still damp enough to adhere their skin together momentarily.
The rush of the running water echoed in the bathroom as the little girl, followed by her mom, shuffled into the room anxious to get into her bath. She tried to climb in fully dressed as usual, but like so many evenings before, her mom grabbed her before her leg landed over the side of the tub. Her mother pulled her dress off over her head, felt the water one last time and lifted the little girl into the tub. “Oops”, she said as the little girl’s feet hit the water. “Stand up; I forgot to take your diaper off!” The little girl stood up as her mom pulled the tabs off her diaper and with one swift motion pulled it down and away from her and tossed it into the garbage can.
The little girl promptly plopped down in the water, causing enough of a splash to momentarily blind her and send her mom searching for a towel to wipe drops of water off of her face. The little girl is fearless in the water allowing her mother to pour cups of water over her hair to wet it and to rinse the shampoo out. She even will take the cup long after her hair has been washed and dump it over her own head, laughing and sputtering as the water goes into her eyes, nose and mouth.
As her mom washes her from head to toe, she almost mechanically responds to the washcloth by lifting each arm and leg, and then turning to allow her to reach and scrub clean every surface, crevice and potential hiding place for dirt and dried ice cream. Once the little girl is shiny and clean, her mom stands back from the tub, admires the human sea lion sitting in the tub and then sits down on the closed toilet seat to watch the show. This show has similar storylines each episode but is never a repeat and she looks forward to watching her daughter enjoy her time in the water.
The little girl was playing with a rubber duck with a tiara and a pink cape on it and using a small blue cup to pour water over it. She squealed as the water hit the top of the duck, and then repeated it over her own head squealing even louder. At one point she ended up on her stomach, her hands firmly on the bottom of the tub pushing her upper body and her head up above the water. Her mom calls it swimming and it is something she just recently discovered how to do. Every once in awhile the little girl would intentionally bend her elbows and drop her face down in the water, only to raise back up again laughing and coughing at the same time.
A few minutes later, the little girl sits up again, and then places her arms behind her and leans her head back into the water. The very tips of her hair reach the water as she slowly begins to move her arms closer down by her side and lower her head towards the water. She is cautious. This is new and fearless as she may be, she is still careful. As her head floats on the water, she experiments with lifting her hands from the bottom of the tub. She is lost in her buoyancy and her mom watches her intently experiencing this new sensation with her. This is one of the things about motherhood that you can never really understand until you experience it. She is as immersed in this moment as her daughter is, floating as time stops.
Out of the corner of her eye, she notices movement from the left side of the tub where the little girl’s feet are. It doesn’t register right away, and even when it did it happened in slow motion. The little girl’s head and shoulders went down under the water and she watched as the water rushed over her eyes and nose and finally her mouth. She stood up, a split second that seemed like 30 and realized that her daughter’s feet were straight up in the air like she had fallen backwards in a chair.
As time caught up with her, the little feet and legs came crashing down into the water, sending sprays to the walls and covering her mother’s denim shorts with a random pattern of tiny drops. The little girl’s slick head popped up out of the water at the same time the impact occurred. Water rushed over her face and into her mouth one last time and for a brief moment she wore a look of shock. “You can’t do that” her mom said to her as the sides of her mouth turned up into a smile while she coughed up some water she had swallowed.
She coughed a few more times and each time, glanced back at the area where her head had been when it went under the water. At one point the little girl made the decision she had been contemplating and began to lean her head back into the water and lower self back down but she was not quick enough. The water began making sucking sounds as it started to spiral down the drain and the tub began to empty. Her mom had pulled the drain plug; she’d had enough floating for one day.