6-year-old daughter turns bathing into marathon sport

Sunday, September 15, 2002

I'm all for soap and water. But I never thought of bathing as a marathon sport.

That is until now.

Our 6-year-old, Bailey, has turned bathing into a major endeavor. She can't take a quick bath. To her, it's a water sport that routinely goes into extra innings.

Our 10-year-old, Becca, on the other hand, has learned to take quick showers.

But not Bailey. She prefers to take a bath and then take a shower to wash her hair. But even the shower takes time since she likes to stand as far from the shower head as possible.

She may be part duck. She likes to splash around in the bathtub.

Baths have been around for ages, although it wasn't easy washing off without running water.

In ancient Rome, only the wealthy could afford bathrooms. But the Romans built public baths throughout the empire, giving a boost to the shampoo industry.

During the Middle Ages, bathing declined because of a lack of rubber duckies. Public bathhouses were called stews and bathing was called stewing because bathers sat in hot water.

Becca and Bailey aren't big on stews, and they don't like really hot water. But at least they understand the importance of washing between the toes.

Back in the 1400s, people frowned on bathing. They used paint and powder to hide dirt and, in so doing, created the first diehard football fans. People used perfume to mask body odor long before Elizabeth Taylor started hawking the stuff.

It took an American hero like Benjamin Franklin to finally see the value of bathtubs in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Still, most homes didn't have bathrooms. Many families kept a bathtub in the bedroom and filled it by hand. Morning showers clearly were out of the question unless it rained.

At one time, Americans had to make do with hand-powered showers. The bather sat on a stool and pumped the water with a hand lever or foot pedal.

The American millionaire George Vanderbilt acquired perhaps the first modern bathroom in 1855. But bathrooms remained a luxury until the 1900s.

Today, bathrooms are a selling point with real estate agents and home buyers.

Bailey couldn't agree more. But for our first grader, the important thing is to have the time to splash around. She doesn't want to put bathing on a timer. You've got to like such commitment to a cause just as long as it doesn't get past her bedtime.

But I have explained to her that bathrooms aren't water parks and she can't make a day of it in the tub. It hasn't helped. She still focuses more on the water than the soap and, at times, she treats the bathtub as a miniature water slide. But at least there's no admission charge.

And don't get me wrong. I'm glad she loves the water. Some kids hate to take a bath.

But Bailey is downright enthusiastic about getting clean even if she doesn't always come clean about how all the water ended up on the bathroom floor.

Still, it's nice to know that kids can be entertained by simple plumbing. They don't have to collect rocks or watch TV all the time.

Bailey is down right happy in the tub, so much so she sometimes doesn't want to let the water out.

But as a dad, I sometimes have to pull the plug on all that fun.

As a parent, I sometimes feel all washed up by the end of bath time. But at least I know I'm not neglecting all those bath toys.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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