I’ve been shopping for a bathtub drain plug for the last four months or so. It’s not entirely the reason I haven’t written a post in that time but it’s a big part of it.
Here’s how it goes. Every night at bath time, after I’ve fought my older two kid’s (6, 4) clothes off and dragged them into the bathroom, I’m faced with the same problem: The drain lever thing is broken and we don’t have a plug. I make a mental note: I’ve got to get a plug tomorrow. Then I search around for something I can put over the drain –a cup, a washcloth… one time I replaced a wad of Kate’s hair I had removed earlier that day and stuck to the side of the tub with my toe. But nothing ever completely works. I always come very close to getting one. I’ll say something like, “screw this, I’m just gonna buy one.” I go on Amazon and find a pretty cool one that had a shark fin on it or something. I go to checkout and then think, “really? Just for a drain plug? All that packaging? All that effort? The UPS guy having to get out of his truck and I’ll probably have to sign for it and he’ll ring the door bell, the dogs will bark, wake up Theo from his nap and my whole day will be f-ed.” So I decide to just go to Bed Bath and Beyond later. But I never do because why would I go all the way to Beth Bath and Beyond just to buy a drain plug?
When the bath fails, I turn on the shower, cold first…leave it for a few seconds to hear them scream…then the hot. It’s perfectly comfortable in there but they always try to get out. For whatever reason, they won’t shower alone. That is, without me. It’s taken a while but I’ve learned to avoid showering with my kids.
The first four times Louisa used my scrotum as a squeeze bag I told her to stop and swatted her hand away. I explained to her that that’s daddy’s private place, that nobody touches there, not even mommy. But something creepy happened after that. She started going after it with a weird laugh and a sort of renewed sense of purpose. My explanation of ‘private parts’ clearly only made the whole thing more intriguing for her. This, I decided, was the worst thing I could do.
I recalled George’s brief foray into the world of ‘bad words’. About a year ago, someone in his preschool class had discovered the attention-getting effect of bad words and decided to share his newfound powers with his classmates. George came home with a new bad word just about every day. Most of the time it was just kind of cute –saying “damn” and “shit” in all the wrong ways. Maybe it was because it all started out like this, sort of innocent and cute, that I didn’t scold him for it.
Up till now, there were two insults commonly used between George and Louisa: “I HATE you!” (George) and “Billiot!” (Louisa). (She stills calls George a billiot, and we still don’t know what it means) Anyway, I liked the old name-calling a lot more than the new, if nothing more than for the creativity. So, I decided my best option for getting George to stop saying bad words was to give him no reaction whatsoever. And it worked. The bad words mercifuly turned back into the more appropriate, “I HATE you”.
So, I took a page out of my “bad word” success story and decided not to slap Louisa’s hand away. I endured the physical and emotional discomfort because I was focused on that future moment when some teenage boy asks Louisa if she wants to see his dong and she goes, “eh…no, not really, thanks. I’ve grabbed and squeezed those a lot, I’m pretty bored of them now.”
It all seemed to be working. Louisa began spending less and less time putting on “Puppetry of the Penis” shows for herself in the shower and spent more time on her “experiments”. (Her experiments, as far as I can tell, are about seeing what happens when you empty a shampoo bottle and pee in it. I didn’t know she was doing this, of course, until I poured pee on my head. To her credit, she tried to warn me as I went to do it. To my credit, it was very plausible that the shampoo would be watery like this since we tend to add water to the last bit of shampoo to extend it’s life. I’ve since cracked down on these wasteful and disgusting experiments. Now, Louisa has one designated shampoo bottle for all future pee potions. (We didn’t tell Kate which one.))
But soon enough, my hands off (hands on?) approach to curbing bad words and genital fondling started showing some holes.
First, it was George. We were at one of Louisa’s friend’s birthday parties. George came along and hung out with me and some of the other parents while the littler ones played. George started playing with one of those hand-cranked eco toy bullshit animal flashlights that never work. He was fussing with it, growing increasingly irritated. I bent down, parents beside me, and did my best ‘super-involved dad’ impersonation. “What’s wrong, honey?” I asked.
“Well, I just… I just…I can’t get this fucking thing to work.”
Then it was Louisa’s turn. She came home from school with this:
In an alternate world where child services isn’t called and I don’t have to come in to discuss my daughter’s ‘penis period’, I like to imagine her teacher walking by as she’s painting one of these and offering something like, “that’s a wonderful penis, Louisa. Where did you learn how to do that?”
“Oh,” Louisa would say, “My daddy mostly. We shower together. I’m just getting it all out of my system now so that when I’m a teenager I won’t be that into penises.”
“Wow, that’s really smart. You’re a lucky girl, Louisa, to have such a smart, good dad.”
Alas, it never does go this way.
I’ve since buckled down and bought a drain plug. Too little, too late perhaps –my sweet little 4 year old daughter has moved straight past “birds and bees” and landed right on “balls”. On the plus side, I’m not washing my hair with her urine anymore. And, George, it turns out, is learning some important things himself now that he and his sister are left alone in the tub again. Just yesterday, he came home with this:
I can only imagine how hard that conversation will be when he discovers they don’t all have red sparkles.