I was standing at my laundry sink the other day cleaning mud off of Sean’s shoes when AD came in and asked me what I was doing. We stood there and chatted for a few minutes as I scrubbed.
He remarked that he couldn’t remember the last time we bathed Sean in the laundry sink. I stopped to think for a minute and I couldn’t remember either. The season of laundry sink baths had quietly slipped away and we didn’t even notice.
When I brought Sean home from the hospital he weighed four pounds and I was, for the most part, terrified of him. He was just so little and scrawny and I didn’t seem to have any natural mothering instincts the first few weeks.
One of the scariest things to me as a new mother, other than trimming those itty bitty fingernails, was bathing him. I couldn’t find any place in our house conducive to bathing a little four pound humanoid.
Leaning over the bathtub just didn’t work for me. For one thing I had this incision across my belly and even after that healed it hurt my back and knees to lean over the tub. It was just an uncomfortably awkward position that seemed to fight against my center of gravity and made bath time joyless.
I tried using the little baby bathtub on the kitchen counter and even on the vanity in my bathroom, but our counters are extra tall and I’m not extra tall. When you add the height of the baby tub and a slippery wet baby, it just felt terrifyingly precarious — not at all relaxing and serene as they show in the Johnson & Johnson ads. There wasn’t enough room for the towels and soaps and I was always bumping something off or having to stretch to reach what I needed while keeping one hand on a squirmy wet baby while water sloshed down the front of me and the cabinets. It made me cry big fat “I can’t do this mommy thing” tears.
Eventually I figured out that I could set the little baby bathtub into the sink in our laundry room. Of course, a woman bathing her baby in the laundry sink wasn’t going to make the cover of Greatest Parents Ever magazine, but it was great for my height and I could put all the stuff I needed on the washer which was right at arms length. Once I figured that out, we bathed him in the laundry sink all the time and bathing my baby became one of the sweetest tasks of the day for all parties concerned.
It wasn’t long before we were bathing him in the laundry sink without the baby bathtub and then it seems that I blinked and he was sitting up by himself in the sink and then I blinked again and he was scaling the cabinet and climbing in all by himself.
And just like a baby in the womb, he grew and grew and grew until his long legs were all tucked up under his chin when he sat in the sink. And I guess, being the astute parents that we are, we did sort of notice every once in a while that he was getting kind of big for the laundry sink. But mostly we saw not the long and lanky legs of a growing boy, but our baby.
Somewhere along the way last summer he started occasionally bathing in the tub in his bathroom. But then at some point unmarked by fanfare, it became always the tub and never the laundry sink. And now, as I stood there scrubbing mud off his tennis shoes, I couldn’t remember the last time we bathed him in the laundry sink.
That’s the thing with these non-Hallmark moments and milestones of childhood, there is no cake or cards to mark the occasion when something ends. Unlike the beginnings, you only notice that you’ve moved beyond the milestone long after the fact.
The days of babyhood blend quietly and seamlessly into childhood in weeks and months, one season folding imperceptibly into the next. It gives me a bit of heartburn to understand that the only way to see that is from a distance.
The season of laundry sink baths had quietly slipped away and we didn’t notice.
We didn’t even notice.
Or I would have baked a cake.
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