Something amazing happened on Sunday night.
Lylah actually tolerated her bath.
But it was after a few minutes of earth-shattering screams. Let me be clear: Lylah wasn’t just shedding a few tears, sniveling, and occasionally letting her anxiety get the best of her by raising her voice.
We might as well have dropped Lylah in a bath of acid.
For some strange reason, Lylah has been terrified of sitting in a full-sized bathtub by herself. When she was smaller, we bathed her in the sink. As she grew, we graduated her to the bathroom tub, but had an inflatable seal which would sit in the middle of the tub, filled with water. She was fine in both of those first two settings, but whenever we would try to take her seal away, it was as if we were trying to murder our child.
But Lylah’s almost seventeen months old now, and we want her to eventually share a bath with her little brother (coming soon). So the other night, we decided to have Sara take a bath and see if Lylah would join her.
Sara got the bath all ready, and hopped in. Just seeing her mom get in the bath was enough to make Lylah run away from the bathroom, afraid. So I got her undressed in her room. We then had Sara call to Lylah, just to see if Lylah would come in and see her mom sitting the tub. Lylah shook her head, “no,” and ran the other way.
Tired of the struggle, and wanting to finish a quest line in Skyrim if I’m totally honest, I grabbed Lylah, and just plopped her in the tub with Sara. Instant screams. Between her howls, I suggested to Sara that we see what happens if we keep her in the tub for a while.
Now, I realize that was a lot easier for me than for Sara, who was holding her, listening to Lylah wail in her arms. But Sara agreed. So I stood in the bathroom for a bit, both Sara and me reassuring Lylah, who stood near her mom, hands outstretched, yelling at the top of her lungs, eyes squeezed shut so tightly that tears wear bursting out of them.
After a bit, it dawned on me that as long as I was in the room, Lylah was still hoping for me to pick her up out of the bath. So I told Sara to yell if she needed me, and I would check in every few minutes. And I turned on my Xbox.
The first few times I came back to check on the situation, nothing had changed. But after about fifteen long minutes, I was more settled in on the couch, but I also heard less noise coming from the bathroom. So I went back in the bathroom, and found that Lylah was actually sitting down in the water, by her mom’s legs, looking at her toys. She didn’t look happy, but she also didn’t look like she was dying.
We decided that was enough progress for one night and got her out. Then we tried again the next night, on Sunday. We repeated the whole process and once again, she screamed when I set her in.
But only about two minutes later, she stopped crying and accepted her fate. By the time I came in, she was actually smiling, like you can see in the picture at the top of the page.
I still have a feeling that Lylah will cry the next time we give her a bath, but I’m encouraged. These evening experiences with Lylah have pointed me to a truth I’m discovering about life.
Everything we strive to do is terrible at first.
If you don’t believe me, you should see some of the first pieces of fiction I wrote. When I was nine, I wrote my first story, called, The Alive Handgun. It had illustrations to accompany the story, which was about ten sentences long. In essence, a handgun with legs ran around shooting people like dirtbike riders in the desert. A guy tried to blow the alive handgun up with a grenade but failed. Finally, a B-17 dropped a bomb on the alive handgun, and I think he(?) blew up.
Over the past six months, I’ve been trying to start my day better by getting up at 5am. If I’m lucky, I have about a 25% success rate. That would be a low F on a test score. Pretty terrible. But one in four is infinitely better than what I was doing before I started.
When you start something new, expect it to be terrible. Don’t let that discourage you. Sometimes you just have to stand in a tub, clench your butt cheeks, and scream for a while before you realize you actually enjoy taking a bath.
What new thing do you need to start, even if it’s terrible at first?