I’ve just gotten his nappy off in front of the tub. I’ve carried him in here, happily coated in pasta sauce, trying not to get any on me, stood him up in front of the bathtub and announced, “It’s bath time!” He’s ecstatic. He’s working his little feet back and forth like it’s Dance Party USA. I get his nappy off and he steps up to the edge of the tub, one hands his doodle, and pisses all over the bath mat.
In retrospect, his nappy felt incredibly empty for being on so long. He’s always had a penchant for pissing as soon as it’s off. These are good things, I tell myself, that mean it’ll be easier to potty train him.
His next biggest sister comes in behind me while I’m wrestling him into the water. For as much as he Fuckin’ Loves Baths, he’s always funny about the water until he gets used to it. Before you think you’re smarter than me, I’ve tried different temperatures and depths. It’s just how he is.
His sister is standing behind me, hovering. I hate when they do that.
“WHAT.” I say. It’s not a question, it’s a challenge.
“I just…”, she thinks about it. She’s been contrary and challenging all day, all week, and she can tell by my tone that she better come up with something good or I’m going to land on her like a pile of friggin’ bricks.
“I just like to watch Boo play in the bath!” she says chirpily. She thinks that by chirping I’ll be more tolerant.
I’ve got my knees in piss, my was-clean Bonds shirt is now caked in pasta sauce and veg, I’m wrestling shampoo into the eyes of a kid that just wants to fucking play and me to leave him the hell alone, I haven’t had dinner yet because I’ve spent the entire afternoon trying to get wife’s computer internetted, a report ready for a committee meeting that I missed because I wasn’t told the new time, teaching chess to the maniacs at my kids’ school and braving Kmart to get some phone wire to finally, finally, internet wife’s machine.
Dinner’s late because dishes weren’t ready because shit is sometimes everywhere and whenever it seems that I’ve got enough of a gap to get the pasta boiled and the salad chopped, Boo shits. The older kids can’t seem to exist for 5 minutes without needing to ask me something OMG RIGHT THIS MINUTE and then spill dinner down their selves while trying to watch tv, despite the 864 times I’ve said “hold your food over your plate, regardless of what your head is doing…”
I’m not in the mood for chirpy. I want left the hell alone. I say so, nicely, and she backs out of the bathroom and pulls the door shut.
Surprisingly, nobody disturbs us after that. I’m able to bathe the Boo and he is annoyed at me, but clean. He then stands proudly in the tub and grasps his doodle, like a challenge. With memories of the scar on both his brother and sister’s foreheads from bath taps, I tell him to sit down. He does. For about 45 seconds, then he stands again, an impish grin on his face.
I give him The Look. I point at him, then I point downwards at the tub. He grins even wider in recognition, and sits. Happily.
Finally, the kids are in bed and I’m seeking escape from the absolute fuck of a day that I’ve had, the end of which was heralded by me spilling a jar of turps on my crotch. Sometimes, the best you can do is just get to bed as quickly and quietly as possible, with zero expectations.
I lay down in bed, nearly luxuriating, and wife comes in to ready her side for nocturning. I tell her a little bit of my feelings towards this day, she sympathises. Then I open up the apptop and find this hidden inside:
It reads, “To maick love out of you” which I have interpreted to mean to make somebody happy using love. If you can see clear enough, that’s the boy and the girl (whether that’s me and 5-yo daughter or me and wife, I haven’t figured out) and they’ve got thought bubbles in the shape of hearts, with the top one that says “I wish” for each, and the one below has a picture of the other person in them. They’re thinking love thoughts, you see, about each other.
Here’s the inside:
The left side is her holding my hand with “I love you Dad” above us. The middle has a heart, with one half her and the other half me, and if you can see closely enough, the line between our eyes is Love Rays, with the word “love” above each of our heads. The right reads “I hope you love me” and has her on a chair with me in front of her.
Now, if read wrong, it could be interpreted as heartbreaking, that this little girl would need to live in confusion as to my love for her. That’s not what she meant though, I’m confident of that. It’s just her… way of writing. It’s like poetry.
Here’s the back:
“Love is the best” with a big heart overlapping a small heart. They look like they’re hugging.
Wife watched me open and read this, and then looked at it herself. One of those moments where you don’t need to say anything. You don’t need words for how this feels, because there aren’t any.