Seriously, I can’t be the only one who practices this line in my head. Every single time I give my child a bath, it sounds like I’m torturing him with bleach and a wire brush.
From the time I start the bath water, fear sets in. Like a deer in headlights, he freezes. Then the anxiety builds slowly, like a pot starting to boil.
It starts with a somber look… like Why, Mom? You don’t have to do this. Let’s just talk about it. Of course he’s nonverbal, so all of this is said through his wide eyes and scrunched eyebrows. Let’s call this Phase 1.
Phase 2: After months of ABA therapy, he finally allows me to get him undressed. But this is where the whining sets in. It’s nothing major. He’s just voicing his displeasure.
Phase 3: He’s in the bath. Not sitting, but not screaming either. (baby steps) He cries a little as we play with the cups in my feeble attempt to console him (aka: distract him from the horror that’s in store).
Now, to all the parents with “typical” children who are thinking of helpful tips: YES! I’ve tried EVERYTHING! Here’s the list in case you don’t believe me:
bath crayons, changing bathrooms, showers instead of baths, bubble baths, colorful bath bombs, music, bath finger paint, bath toys, watching tv in the bathroom, candy and treats, an inflatable bathtub in the real bathtub, practicing with no water, using a protective bath hat, essential oils, bathing with clothes on, playing in the tub like it’s a ball pit, I could go on…
On to Phase 4. This is where the real terror begins – washing his hair. It seriously sounds like I’m performing an exorcism in the bathroom. The meltdown is in full effect.
I fear that, at any moment, I’ll hear a knock at the door… An officer, child protective services, a concerned neighbor… It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m ready with my speech when it does.
I mean, can we get a bath-time support group going, or what?
Of course, this is a venting/humorous article. Sometimes I laugh to keep myself from crying. But the fact is, no matter how hard bath time is for me, it’s even harder for my kiddo.
Phase 5 is recovery. We’re done with the bath. I wrap him in a towel and we rock. He doesn’t even look at me for a good 5 minutes. I’ve hurt him. I’ve scared him. I’ve made him do something that he doesn’t deem safe.
Can you imagine being so terrified of something, and having to do it over and over again?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become afraid of heights. I never had this fear growing up. Even if I’m inside a building, I can’t look down without feeling like I’m going to pass out. Even when I KNOW I’m safe, my fear is stronger than my logic.
That’s how my son feels about taking a bath. And I make sure I remind myself of that every time we start. It’s not his fault the bath is scary. He loves the water in every other scenario. I’m sure he wants to play with the bath toys like his twin brother, but his fear won’t let him.
Autism doesn’t play fair. And I need to show my kiddo that I’m on his team, no matter what. So I take a breath, and try my best to stay positive and reassuring… hoping he will conquer his fear soon.