Raptors and Hovercrafts

I hate bath time.  Anyone else?

Before I had kids, I thought that bath time would be a soothing, relaxing end to a long day.  And that after getting their baths, my children would easily slip into their pajamas and then sit at my feet and watch me attentively while I read them a book.  At the end of the book, they would willingly climb into their beds, give me sweet kisses goodnight, and quietly drift off to sleep.

This is not, of course, how things go in my house.  Probably not in your house, either. I don’t like bath time because it is the beginning of the end.

My very understanding husband usually does bath time at our house.  I am content to wash the massive pile of dishes in the sink, while watching T.V. and sipping on a glass of wine.  But a few nights ago, I couldn’t bring myself to wash the dishes.  The sheer volume gave me anxiety.  So I agreed to do bath time instead.

It should not take long to wash the boys’ heads and bodies.  There just isn’t that much surface area to cover.  But it always takes a long time because they either fight with me or with each other.  Or they insist on coming up with very elaborate games or stories using the toys they sneak into the bath tub.  (They think I’m unreasonable because I don’t allow battery-operated toys into the tub.)

Well a few nights ago I was tired.  Very, very tired.  And I didn’t have the energy to do much at all.  I knew that things were going to decline rapidly when after getting undressed the boys hid in their rooms so successfully that I couldn’t find them and my heart started beating quickly and I could feel my temper start to rise.  I did not want to yell at them.  It seems that I’m always yelling at them.

Changing the Bathtime Routine

So I decided to do something different.  I filled the bath tub, announced to the boys– wherever they were–that the water was hot and I would not be adding any more hot water and they would have to take cold baths.  (They’re like their Mama.  They like super hot baths.)  And I waited.  One by one they came and dropped their little bodies into the tub. And I decided to relax my my Type-A personality a bit and only act as lifeguard.  I sat against the wall in the bathroom (with my glass of wine in hand– so maybe not a very responsible lifeguard) and just watched.

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And here is what I learned:

  • A three year old is perfectly capable of washing himself.  Perhaps not as thoroughly as a grown-up can do, but enough to be presentable.
  • Though laughing is usually a sign of mischief, sometimes children can laugh simply because they’re having a good time.  There’s no need to police them so much.
  • Getting wet while bathing your children is an occupational hazard.  It will not kill you.

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Children are inherently creative.  This one surprised me the most, probably because it’s so obvious.  I see evidence of my kids’ creativity on an almost daily basis, and yet I hardly ever notice it.   Max composes music on the piano.  Luke is constantly writing (very short) stories.  (I have to help with the actual writing part, and it’s an incredibly slow and painful process, but I should try harder to encourage his creative genius.)  Charlie constructs fairly elaborate structures out of his Legos, working with hands that are not yet fully coordinated and still carrying residual rolls of baby fat.

I don’t know about you, but I dread the onslaught of drawings and pictures that I collect from the boys’ cubbies and book bags at the end of the day.  I just don’t have the time– or the patience– to marvel at all of them, and I don’t have the space to display them all.  So I provide a generic, all-inclusive word of praise and tell the boys how much I admire what they have done.

And that is the truth.  I do admire their creative impulses and the results that they produce.  I admire their discipline when they compose, or write or build.  I admire that they create just for the sake of creating, without fear of judgment or criticism, and without need for accolades or awards.  And frankly, I’m a little envious of it.

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At what point along the way do we lose our creative impulses?

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As I sat on the bathroom floor, lifeguarding the boys, I paid attention to their animated tale of a raptor who discovers a hovercraft and all of the hilarity that ensues.  The anachronistic oversight aside, it was actually a very clever story.  A sign that children are, by nature, creative little people.   And it made me wonder.

At what point along the way do we lose our creative impulses?  Or, perhaps better asked, at what point along the way are these impulses muted by the need for recognition?  I know what happens, of course.  We get busy.  Time becomes limited.  And we spend it doing things that are lucrative.

But what if we set aside some of our precious time and allowed ourselves to do something that was productive?  What if we composed that song, or wrote that short-story, just because we had the impulse to do so?  I introduced this blog by making the observation that I am not a creative person.   But that is simply not true about me or anyone else.  We are all creative people.  Most of us have just chosen to spend our adult lives stifling the need to be creative.

But witnessing those boys bring to life a story about a dinosaur who fails spectacularly in its operation of a water vehicle — that convinced me that there is a certain kind of happiness to be found in honoring the inherent creativity that each of us has.  And in our great pursuit of happiness, this seems to be low-lying fruit.

 

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