Thursday, May 1, 2014
There is perhaps no greater picture of the place I am at in my life right now than bath night. After supper is cleaned up and leftovers are put away, we move on to the kids. I am on a mission, filling tubs with far more bubbles than necessary, getting the temperature just right, and immersing my two precious babes into a warm cocoon of scented suds, soft wash clothes, and a much-needed wind down to another day. Their baths become yet another canvas that tells the story of motherhood, of this selfless yet so fulfilling place I am at in my life. Showers for me happen less often than they used to and serve as nothing more than a quick means to get clean, but baths for my loves become a sanctuary - a sacred place in our life's story that is one of the truest pictures of all the good. No matter how crabby one of them is, the moment their toes hit the water it seems they are covered in this blanket of peace and security. Cruz immediately dives into a world of imaginative play, where blocks become the "ideas" of Batman and Wonder Woman, and a plate of colored shaving cream becomes the palette of Picasso himself. In the bath, Mila exerts everything that is good about a baby, her chubby cheeks resting on her chest and her eyes staring so intently at the textbook in front of her - her feet, her fists, her mom. Suddenly, she kicks her feet and splashes water on her face, her concentration turning to surprise and then pride in the discovery she just made. And me? I breathe in the lavender bath suds, let the warm water wash over my hands as I wash them, and feel renewed. I feel myself falling deeper in love with them, a feeling that happens several times when you are a mom.
After a proper soaking comes the work I'm really good at. I wash between Mila's baby rolls, the rubber bands around her wrists and the soft chub on her thighs. I wash in between her toes, behind her ears, and that place under her neck that makes her open her mouth in response like a baby bird looking for a worm. I smile, she smiles. I wrap her body tightly in a fresh towel, then go to work to make her warm and cozy, always wrapping her up in a new blankie and cradling her tightly for awhile.
Cruz's bathing process is similar. I use a towel to wipe the ledge of the tub and sit in an awkward position in order to reach him. We play a game of tug of war, attempting to wash him while he fights to stack blocks, float boats, or wash the paint off the side of the shower with his washcloth. We sing as I scrub his head with shampoo, making sure he tips his head back far enough to avoid water in his eyes. And then, as always, he pulls the plug and I rinse him off, wrapping him in a towel before he runs into the living room and sprawls out on the living room floor, waiting to be lathered in lotion. These small gestures become an act of love for them, another attempt to show them how important they are to me. And as I smell their newly washed heads, watch Cruz jump on our bed in his striped pajamas, and cuddle this baby of mine in her Dreft-scented footed sleeper, I feel every stress, insecurity, or uncertainty of the day wash away like dirt down a drain. I feel important, purposeful, and beautiful, called to take care of two of God's masterpieces. This place, just loving them and taking care of them is the most important work I will ever do.
And then comes bedtime stories. Lately we've been doing this as a family, all four of us trudging up the stairs together to Cruz's cozy room. He picks out his allotted three books and we prop Mila up on a pillow next to Cruz as Beau and I face them and read Cruz's favorite books about Dr. Doom, Snatchabook, and bear hunts. Mila feels so important in this moment, her eyes traveling from Beau, to Cruz, to me, and then the pages of the book, following along and absorbing more than I can comprehend. Sometimes Cruz wants to read to us and I sink into Beau's chest and drink in his sweet, three year old voice as he says big words like magnetism and abomination. I laugh, I grow a little impatient when Cruz drags out his usual routine of one more story, one more cup of water, one more potty break, but most of all, I sit up there in that dimly lit room and I feel happier than I have ever felt in my entire life.
I peak in and take a moment to watch them sleep, Cruz hugging his Lightning McQueen and Mila sleeping like an angel in her sleep sack, the Avett Brothers playing softly from the kindle propped in her crib, and I am reminded I will only have them like this for so long. All too soon, they will take showers and not need me to tuck them in or rock them to sleep. There won't be books before bed or that little voice at the top of the stairs saying, "Mommy, I need to go potty," even though he went just ten minutes before. Someday, they won't need me the way they do, so for now, I bathe, I lotion, I rock, I read and I thank God for these important days of being everything they need.
Images from Mila's newborn session, finally getting around to posting. Thanks to Darcy from At Play Photo for chronicling our family's story since 2010...