Having children who can shower on their own is a most fabulous parenting milestone. But much like I imagine it will be when I one day hand over the car keys, handing over the sponge and liquid soap was not without its glitches.
Some time ago I sent my son to shower. He returned moments later wrapped in a towel with bone-dry skin and hair confident that he had completed the task. I naturally sent him back with a sweet and witty ‘scrub yourself or I’ll scrub it for you’. And within seconds he was back in the shower, howling that he had soap in his eyes. As I ran to the bathroom the following thoughts flashed through my mind:
Wow, he’s getting good at this whole shower thing, he hasn’t complained about soap in his eyes in a long time.
He used to get soap in his eyes every time he showered. But it’s been months since we’ve had this kind of soap emergency!
And then it hit me like a ton of loofahs – the kid had not used soap in months. I held off on my panic and vomit, flushed the soap from his eyes, and waited until he was cute and snug in his jammies to confront my suspicions. ‘Um, hon, the whole soap thing, have you been using it? Like regularly?’ He shook his head sheepishly and I launched into a Daytime Emmy worthy monologue about odor and germs and human decency and being raised in barns.
He considered my arguments in favor of cleanliness and countered them by pointing out that despite his nonuse of soap he must not have smelled that bad or I would surely have noticed it over the course of the past few months. And he hadn’t been sick in a long time, so the germ angle wasn’t really working for him either.
I ignored his claims as ridiculous and resorted to the ‘use soap or I’ll use it for you’ tactic. (June Cleaver quit book club, so I’m flying solo on this whole parenting thing.) He promised that he would.
I walked away realizing that all this time I had been praying for children who were strong and good and happy and healthy, and it had slipped my mind to ask for children who were hygienic. This was totally my bad – forget conventional wisdom, be careful what you don’t wish for! So in honor of the High Holidays when it is traditional to ask the Lord for blessings in the upcoming year, I have composed a new prayer.
Prayer for a Hygienic Child (To be read in an unblaspheming tune)
May it be Your will that my child use soap.
Openeth his eyes so that he may distinguish between a tissue and a sleeve.
Steady his hand so that his aim not stray in the restroom.
Allow not his fingers to wander into his nose,
And strengthen him so that he doth fear neither toothbrush nor paste.
May Purell run freely through our home like the mighty River Jordan.
And let us say, Amen.
A happy, healthy, and hygienic New Year to you and yours, and mine too.