My wife and I know a wonderful fellow named Tom who sometimes helps us around the house. We all need a good Tom in our lives, especially those of us not intrinsically capable of reading instructions or remembering where our middle child buried the adjustable wrench.
We beckoned Tom to our home recently to help solve quite the conundrum: A water spot about a foot in diameter that mysteriously appeared on the carpet outside our bathroom. What made the spot confounding was its refusal to dry – no matter how many fans we whirled its way.
Tom undertook the task with vigor. Maybe it was a leak from the second story. Maybe there was a roof issue. He doubted the culprit was the foundation or a busted pipe, because the spot of bother would have multiplied.
After two weeks of chasing the source, Tom rightfully threw up his arms. He emailed me the names of roofers, plumbers and voodoo gypsies.
I wish I could tell you one of those three (especially the latter) solved the problem. The unfortunate truth lies in a different sort of ritual our family performs nightly in the bathroom that once belonged to the adults in our family.
Those who have followed this column for the past six years know a bit about our oldest son, Hank. One reader dubbed this series of columns the “Hanksploits,” which I’ll obviously steal when my first-born grants me rights to his authorized biography. But many of you don’t know about Hank’s cast of cohorts.
Sheppard Calhoun, whose name would indicate a modicum of class and sophistication, displays nothing of the sort. Cal turns four in a few months, and we’re worried he has a drinking problem. When he’s not watering the lawn, he walks around mumbling like a Minion, dressed like Linus and downing apple juice like it’s the Last Supper.
While we’re not certain of Cal’s unquenchable thirst, we suspect it’s the result of his attempt to flee big brother’s self-proclaimed “John Cena moves.” Hank will flash an elbow and Cal will Fred Flintstone his feet all the way to the swirling barstool.
About a minute later, Cal climbs down from his no-wrestle zone and summons his now-disenfranchised nemesis.
“Hey buddy?” Cal implores in his best elementary-teacher’s tone. “Hey brother? Want to chase me?”
Straight back to the barstool.
Meanwhile, our family’s newest (and last) human addition, Eleanor Bo, stands at the base of the barstool, uncertain of her role in the melee, though intent on reckless participation.
Technically, Bo is 19 months old, which means she has yet to develop any meaningful skill sets beyond motion and noise. In her precious attempt to join the circus, Bo strategically begins deployment of both skills. She runs to Hank’s leg, pulling for his acceptance in the game. She wobbles back to Cal’s barstool, one decibel shy of an ambulance. She repeats the procession until one of the two brothers has accidentally knocked her over with John Cena’s elbow.
This whirlwind of pandemonium begins the moment I get home from work, proceeds directly through dinner and, in my mind at least, ends the moment I raise my right arm and order our children to the bath.
Have you ever attempted to give three children a bath at the same time? Granted, I understand the fallacy of my complaint, because I’m the one who issued the subpoena in the first place. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, hold your breath.
While sparing you the details of waterfalls and geysers, which boy parents will immediately understand, the moment a parent places all three children in a bathtub is erroneously considered a chance to breathe. You turn on the water, make certain they’re all seated, and you wilt to the floor.
“Just sit there and get wet for a minute while I catch my breath,” is what I’d say if these children understood the concept of exhaustion.
By the time your fanny hits the floor, Cal has crashed a cheekbone into his sister’s forehead, and the shrill screams would raise King Tut from his tomb.
“Can’t you all just be still for 30 seconds?” I ask no one in particular. “Let’s just wash your hair.”
For you people with no children, don’t think for a second this looks like a Johnson & Johnson commercial – that’s downright propaganda.
I always start with the oldest, because he’s the easiest. I dump a bucket of water on Hank’s head, rub in some soap and tell him to scrub.
Next, I grab the youngest, Bo. Once I lather her hair, she immediately reaches for a handful and sticks it in her mouth. Carry on.
Then there’s Cal who, for some reason, believes shampoo turns into a face-eating acid. The moment I soap his head, he begins a spastic escape under water to cleanse himself from the apparent death balm. With Cal, I’ve got four seconds to scrub his entire head, and I’ve mastered the technique.
Back to Bo, who has eaten most of her shampoo. Unlike Cal, though, she’d rather do a swan dive out of the tub than have me dump a pail of warm water over her sudsy hair. With children like this, you grab one arm for dear life and throw water on their heads like you’re putting out a brush fire. You miss a few times, but at this point, who cares?
Then I finish with Hank, who was born with the hair of a duck. He needs 11 buckets full before the last suds disappear, which leaves Cal and Bo enough time to grab some of their bath toys and secretly dump two gallons of water on the bathroom floor, which apparently then trickles to a 12-inch spot on the bedroom carpet.
There’s no gypsy voodoo happening in our house. Just a duck, a goose and a precious baby girl. Oh, and Tom’s number on speed dial.