I was a water baby. Spent my summers swimming in The North Hills Country Club pool, so when I had my own tadpoles, I was determined to start them early, before the age where they developed a sense of fear. Swim lessons when they were a few months old, quite frankly, didn’t last. The idea was good, but it didn’t really happen. But I did what we could manage, introducing them to floating and paddling about in our big jacuzzi tub.
Though yesterday, Abigail and I took a bath together. A real bath. For the first time. Ever. Certainly I’d given her baths before, but never had we killed two birds with one pumice stone. We bathed in her bathroom tub, where we washed each others legs and arms and back. Fingerpaint soap. Mixing colors on the walls. I scrubbed her hair and behind her ears. We sang Ernie’s rubber ducky song, except I didn’t know all the words, so I kept repeating the same lines. She didn’t mind. She was happy as long as no one suggested pouring water over her head. Ahem.
I had to teach her to trust me. I asked her to fall back on me, resting her head on my body, as I rinsed clean water through her hair. I promised not to get soap in her eyes, but she didn’t seem to believe me.
It’s weird, you know kids pick up on everything you say, that they’re smarter than we realize, more capable than we allow, but I find myself focused on objects instead of concepts. I can point to things and name them, but explaining the concept of trust to a two year old seems… out of place. I can even point to the concept of "sharing," by passing a desired toy between Lucas and Abigail, while repeating the word "share." Trust is something you have to feel to understand. Still, in a soothing bathtub voice, I said, "Trust me."
She was afraid at first, her eyes pinched together, her face a red knot. As she willed her body down against mine, I took a deep breath, forcing her to feel it, her body rising with mine. I poured a cup of clean water onto the back of her head, and her eyes stopped squinting. They were simply shut. I added more water, and she cracked into a soft smile, like when you’re having a delicious dream. I loved that moment.
I love that that’s our life together: a girl and her mama, in our robes, lubing up with pretty creams. Though she has me call it crema and always asks for more. Later, I’d paint her toenails the same struggling-actress-red as mine. We’d watch a few minutes of Ratatouille, where she’d call the rat "Mouse." Like me, her favorite character seems to be Ego, the food critic. Then I’d read her the book off which Ratatouille was based, as we nibbled some cheese. But, for now, as I unrobed her, slipping on her silky "ice skating elephants" pajamas, she noticed her vagina and pointed.
"Jina." She said it not as if she were saying the name "Gina." More like a woman named "Jai" with a proclivity to turn things down simply by stating, "Nah."
"That’s right Abigail. Your vagina."
"Mama vagina," she said, pointing to mine.
"Yup," I said, fastening her diaper.
"No, Lucas has a–"
"Penis," she jumps in.
"That’s right, yes. Lucas does have a penis. And Papa? What does Papa have?" I ask her, and she shouts, "Ego!"
Indeed. Your father has a big fat strapping ego.