It was Friday afternoon. My wife was harried as she was working from home while trying to prepare for Shabbos.
Being the wonderful husband that I am, I asked how I could help. “Get the children bathed,” she instructed as if she were a quarterback barking orders to the rest of the team. “Anything else?” I inquired. I told you I was a wonderful husband. Anyway, the quarterback had no more instructions.
She did not realize she had given me the easiest job.
Some of you may be scratching your heads and thinking, “Easy? What are you, meshuga?” You’re conjuring up images of children who avoid the bath as if it’s the eleventh plague. These children need a countdown, a staredown, and ultimately a rundown to get them into the tub. Then, when they are in the tub, they splash around like a fish who are out of water. When it comes time to actually wash them, they are furious for the interruption to their playtime. When you get out of the tub and brush their hair--another battle, you are sweating, tired, and trying to figure out who got the most wet--you, the floor, or your child.
Actually, I am completely sane. There have been times when the scene I described above occurred. I would be cleaning up the bathroom afterwards while wondering just how often I really need to bathe the children. Would once a month be enough?
I am here to tell you that those days have passed. My children don’t require the countdown, staredown, or rundown. In fact, they often go into the bath themselves and enjoy the experience. They wash themselves (well, they claim to and they don’t smell, so I am inclined to believe them) and get themselves dressed after getting out of the bath. They seem to think underwear is optional, but that’s another story. Okay, the bathroom is still a mess when they are done, but cleaning it up is much less unpleasant when you’re not exhausted from battle.
Now, I have to make a confession. You know how you are excited for your child to move forward in his/her development? You think to yourself, “I can’t wait till I don’t have to burp or feed or diaper or carry, etc.” Then suddenly, the child is past the stage. You are happy for the child and for the easing of the burden, but part of you misses it. Part of you feels nostalgia and sighs and sees a glimpse of the child growing up and needing you less and less.
I feel it too. So, I offer my children assistance, “You okay in there? Need any help? Want me to sit in here and wait for you?” Normally, it’s a negative. So, I move on doing whatever it is I have to do feeling both happy and sad. My boys are growing up and my days as a father to small children is nearing an end.
Well, my Friday afternoon job is completed as the clock races towards candle-lighting. The boys are bathed--with little assistance from me. I wonder what they will need from me next.
By Larry Bernstein