When my 3-year-old Betsy was born, I thought she’d clean herself. Apparently I was thinking of cats. My oldest daughter could eat a dry cracker and somehow end up sticky enough to climb a wall. For all I know, her real father is Spider-Man, but it’s surprisingly hard to force a fictional superhero to take a paternity test. My 1-year-old Mae isn’t any cleaner. Her favorite food is anything on the floor, and she spends at least a few minutes each day sitting in her own poop. Per square inch, she’s covered in more bacteria than the average outhouse. The only safe way to hug a child is through the plastic of a hazmat suit. If I knew beforehand it’d be my job to clean off these human disease factories, I would’ve traded in my kids for something cleaner, like a turtle.
It’s nearly impossible to keep my daughters hygienic, especially since I can’t run them through the dishwasher. The doctor said that would invalidate their warranties. Instead of sanitizing my progeny with the wonders of the industrial age, I’m forced to scrub them by hand like some kind of peasant beating dirty clothes in a river with a rock. In this case, both the river and the rock are metaphorical. Using a real one of either also voids the kids’ warranties. Children come with a lot of fine print.
|Public baths are the reason the Roman empire collapsed. Citizens saw how awful other people’s kids were in the tub, so everyone stopped having babies.|
If I bathed my kids every time they needed it, I’d have to hose them off on an hourly basis. Instead, I settled for every other night. That’s just frequently enough to prevent them from being kicked out of daycare for odor violations. If they did get the boot, I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I just don’t want them to stink up my car on the ride home.
No matter when I bathe my kids, it’s always inconvenient. I can’t clean them off before dinner because they don’t eat food; they explode it. The debris ends up splattered across their faces, their clothes, and the ceiling. To avoid giving them two baths in a row, I have to toss them in the tub right before their bedtime. By that point, I’m the one who’s ready to fall asleep. On more than one occasion, I’ve nodded off after I turned on the water. I woke up when my wife screamed at me for flooding the entire street. The most expensive part of having kids isn’t college tuition; it’s the water bill.
My girls do their best to cut down on my utility costs. Every time they take a bath, they demand no fewer than 648 different toys. By the time all of these submersible trinkets are in the tub, there isn’t room for water. Most of it gets displaced onto the walls and floor, which is why my bath-time outfit consists of a poncho and fishing waders. In the meantime, my daughters try to get clean by rolling around on a pile of dry plastic.
|Bathtubs are basically just storage receptacles for Happy Meal toys.|
Because I wash off the kids late at night when I’m on the edge of consciousness, I make the event as short as possible. Betsy and Mae have roughly a few seconds to play with each toy, which also happens to be the exact length of their attention spans. Even if I left them in the tub all day, they wouldn’t have time to rotate through every fake fish and Barbie mermaid, yet they still can’t manage to share. They fight to the death to play with the same toy, only to forget about it moments later to battle over something else. It isn’t so much a bath as it is a violent cage match. Any cleaning that occurs is strictly accidental.
It’s just as well the water never stays in the tub because I can’t get the temperature right. It leaves the faucet so hot it comes out as steam, but within a few minutes it condenses into icebergs. I have two college degrees and I’m still not smart enough to maintain lukewarm water. I’m probably the only dad in America who has treated his kids for third-degree burns and hypothermia on the same night. It’s been so long since I learned first aid that I can’t separate what I picked up in Boy Scouts from what I saw in “Star Wars.” The last time my daughters got cold, I cut a hole in a dead tauntaun. I’m sure that’s what I did for the merit badge.
Then there’s the most difficult part of all: actually washing my daughters. They don’t have much surface area, so it should be a quick and easy process. Unfortunately, they have hair. My own mane never extends beyond an inch, so I have no idea how to handle long, flowing locks. Betsy’s hair goes down past her shoulders, and when it gets wet it mats together like a beaver tail. Washing out the shampoo takes gallons of water applied with the pressure of a fire hose. I’m not sure how long her hair can withstand this repeated barrage, but I hear female baldness is coming back in style.
|It’s amazing how hard it is to buy a fire hose just because I’m “not a firefighter” and “way too drunk to be out in public.”|
Sometimes I have the opposite problem. Earlier this week, I had Mae all the way out of the tub and dried off before I realized I forgot to even attempt to rinse out the shampoo. She wasn’t happy to take a second polar plunge, but I didn’t want to find out what would happen if she slept in a helmet of cleaning products. I haven’t done any research, but I have a hunch her hair would become sentient and kill me.
Obviously these cleaning practices aren’t sustainable. It’ll be years before my daughters can wash themselves, and soon I’ll have a third girl in my house attracting filth. The only rational solution is to laminate them all. Dirt would slide right off their plastic shells, making baths entirely unnecessary. Since they’re still growing, they’d occasionally have to shed their casings like snakes. The process would be unsettling to watch, which would keep boys from asking them out. There’s truly no downside. Now I just need to find a vendor to work with me. It’s hard to get anyone to take my calls seriously when I get to the part about spraying my children with molten plastic. Some people are so close-minded.