This is a story that begins with a crying baby by the bathtub and ends with a crying mommy by the bathtub. Ready? Ok.
Small One loves taking baths. He normally fusses when I take his clothes off, but as soon as I throw the towel on him, Small One knows – bath time is coming. He cannot contain his delight, the squeals come out of his smiling mouth, and I have to avoid getting kicked by his happy legs. Once in the bath, he plays with a singing German duck, eats the water thermometer and splashes around. He’s been sitting up in it unassisted for a while, and now crawls around in the water.
During the day he will often wander into the bathroom, pull himself up on the side of the tub and make “Eh eh eh” noises, his grunting way of saying that he wants in. He wants a bath.
I did not give him a bath for three nights in a row, so last evening the longing for one must have burned a bit more deeply into his little being. He was standing next to the tub, holding on and looking in as I filled it with water and checked the temperature.
Then he started crying and hitting the side of the tub and looking at me with upturned angry, mournful eyes, big tears rolling down his cheeks.
If he could talk, I think he would have said, I love baths, why won’t you put me in? I need a bath, why haven’t I had one in the past few days? This is the highlight of my day – I don’t understand why you are tempting me like this. You aren’t nice. You are mean to me. You are unkind. You don’t love me.
Small One has no idea that in five minutes he will be splashing around happily in the tub. He has no idea that I am filling it to the right height and making sure it’s not too hot and not too cold. For him.
All of my effort, it is for him to enjoy in five minutes.
He cannot comprehend this, and in the moment, in this brief moment, his full reality is consumed by what he sees to be true – his mother is keeping him from the thing he loves most.
I talk to him, I tell him that it’s coming, Only five more minutes, kiddo, Mommy is just making sure that the water is not too warm, I don’t want you to get burned. I touch his head and stroke his hair, Oh kiddo, it’s ok, I’m here. You’re ok. You’re going to have your bath soon.
And soon enough the tears are rolling down my cheeks as well because I am hearing the voice of my Parent in my heart saying the same things, Oh kiddo.. if you only knew how much I love you, if you only knew what is coming in your life, if you only knew that I am not depriving you of what you want or what you think that you need, if you could wait.. just keep waiting, a little while longer, only a little while longer Devi, you cannot imagine the good plans I have for your life.
I carry a crying baby out of the bathroom, put a still-crying baby on the change table, take off the clothes of a baby that continues to cry until the towel is thrown on him, then he is happy. He knows what comes next.
I lower him into his bath – water at the perfect height, warm enough to keep him happy but not hurt him, his toys perfectly arranged for him to play with – and he squeals, he laughs, he giggles. He is so happy. He gives me his cheeky, flirty eyes, and we play peek-a-boo on either side of the tub.
We are all waiting for something. Security, healing, a job, children, a spouse, a new location, money, possessions, a new body, more money, and the frustrations, anger, pain and fear that come with waiting, I find, more often than not we direct toward the people whom we think are responsible for bringing those things to fulfillment. God is the one who has born the brunt of my intense emotions, and every time he has carried his crying child out of the bathroom, to the change table, and then back again I have forgotten the very basic truth – he was with me, and there was always something good on the other side of the waiting.
I gave Small One an extra-long bath yesterday. It had been too many days, and to be honest, I just like listening to him squealing his little heart out. I watch him, and the tears flow freely for me as my own parent heart breaks a little bit. Being able to give my child something that brings him pure joy is the best feeling in the whole entire world, and what I feel is a small reflection of the image of the only perfect Parent who also loves to bring his children joy, and if I just keep listening closely, I know what he is saying.
Five minutes. Wait a little bit longer. I have not left you. I am with you. Wait a little bit longer.