The New York Times backs me up on this. The other week they ran an article entitled “The Great Unwashed” reporting on relatively normal people who choose not to bathe, shampoo or deodorize daily. But this is nothing new in my household. My kids are way ahead of that trend.
My kids opt out not for any strongly held philosophical or environmental reasons as is true of some of the subjects in the article. My kids’ motives are really quite simple. They like filth. Or rather they are lazy and prefer the grime to the effort it takes to wash it off.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I may be alone in my enforcement of bath time.
I’m not militant about it. When my daughter was a terrible toddler and I was in the trenches fighting her on a myriad of issues I just couldn’t take on one more. Now, with karate, girl scouts, boy scouts, homework, work work, dinner, dirty dishes and laundry some days there just isn’t enough time.
Early on to avoid protests and put down the revolt I had to institute a bathing routine and appoint actual Bath Days. I picked Wednesdays and Saturdays. While I was aware this was a substandard hygiene routine, it was the only way I could devise to minimize conflict and keep them somewhat cleanly. At the mention of bath they’d still complain, “We just took a bath,” to which, I’d reply, “That was three days ago.” They’d slink toward the bathroom moaning, “Why do we have to take another bath?” I would happily state, “Because it’s Bath Day.” And that would end it. They couldn’t argue with that.
I choose the days based on a carefully considered set of criteria: their number of public appearances and how long they could go before they would cause a public health crisis. I figured with a bath on Saturday they’d start off the school week fine. Monday they’d still be fairly fresh. Tuesday they’d be a bit tattered. By Wednesday their hair would be greasy and matted and their upper lip and chin stained red with Hi-C, but, hey, it was Bath Day. Thursday was their purest day of the week, and Friday was just one more day before Bath Day.
We had been practicing questionable hygiene for years before the topic arose in a conversation with my best girlfriend. It was just after she had her first child, but before she had to face the million and one demands a tiny person can place on you. As a new mom, she did what all first timers are prone to do - she compared parenting notes with other moms and judged. After a day with another novice mom, she relayed to me her horror upon finding her friend only bathed her child once a week.
“That’s disgusting,” she said. “Kids get dirty. How could you not put them in the bath more than once a week?”
“I don’t know,” I concurred, neglecting to tell her about the system I’d developed. As a veteran mom I knew she would soon discover the endless responsibilities of parenting and realize she, too, must take some short cuts.
I’ll admit the system isn’t perfect, but it works. The only time I run into a problem is when I have to change Bath Day due to scheduling conflicts. This completely confuses my kids. They just don’t get it. If it’s not Bath Day they don’t need a bath. It doesn’t matter that actual Bath Day has to be cancelled. They cannot comprehend why bathing is required at all, let alone even remotely necessary. I have to justify the switch in days and coax them into the tub. I only hoped that in time they will come to see bathing not as an evil burden on their lives but as a beneficial act, maybe even a pleasant one.
For now my kids are still on the twice weekly regimen, although I have considered upping it. But according to The Times I shouldn’t. Slovenliness might be healthier. That’s right. My filthy kids prove I’m a good mom.
The funny thing is after all those years of convincing cajoling, and arguing, my kids actually seem to like baths. When they finally get in, they don’t want to come out. It seems, what they really like is fighting me on it.