PJ Parenting writers weigh in on parenting issues small and large and you have the opportunity to share your insights in the comments section below. We’d love it if you’d join us for a cup of coffee and some great conversation!
Question: How often should children be bathed? Every day? Once a week, whether they need it or not? When you can’t stand the odor anymore?
Jamie Wilson: My two daughters, ages 5 and 7, are opposites on this question. My youngest would live in a bathtub if she could, whereas the oldest apparently believes she’s the Wicked Witch of the West and will melt if water touches her body. I prefer once per day for both, especially in the summer, so I’m right in the middle.
My answer is negotiation. Jenarose, the enthusiastic bather, gets a bath once per day, provided she has picked up all her toys, and I’ll let her bathe twice in a day if she goes above and beyond. Scarlett, on the other hand, is allowed to skip a day, provided she changes clothes every day and keeps her long, beautiful hair somewhat tidy. It works out.
Megan Fox: Ah, bath time! The double-edged sword. On one hand, bath time is great because all attitude problems and complaining melts away with the warm water. But cleaning up after bath time is perhaps worse than the complaining and bad attitudes. Just thinking about the water seeping into my already partially rotted subfloor (“For the 800,000th time, WATER STAYS IN THE TUB!”) makes me tense up.
In theory, a bath every night before bed is a good idea. My sister somehow manages to pull this off. I, on the other hand, sometimes look at my child’s dirt-streaked face and hair standing up on one side and think, “She can make it one more night.” I really want to be the mom that bathes them every night and reads stories in bed, but I’m usually the mom who collapses face down on the couch while they’re “brushing their teeth” (which actually means doing everything BUT brushing their teeth while I silently cry into a cushion counting down the seconds until wine-o-clock).
Summer demands more baths, but here’s the catch: Swimming counts! For one thing, they’re swimming in bleach. What could be more sanitary? Goodbye germs! If it’s a lake or something, then still…water. Throw them a bar of soap while they’re in there. If they have a sport (mine have JiuJitsu) then a bath is a must…or go swimming. The other day my 5-year-old came in from the sandbox looking like Rachel Dolezal, minus the fro. In extreme circumstances like that, it’s directly to the tub or the hose…whichever is closer. Did I mention rain? Rain counts. Send them out to play in the rain in bathing suits. Rain totally counts. The short answer is, whatever gets you through, sister.
Tricia Williford Lott: I met a couple at a wedding reception a few years ago, when we were assigned a table because of something the bride felt we had in common. Sure enough, her two boys were a few years older than my two boys, and I found an instant mentor. I’m pretty sure I held her captive during the entire wedding reception, peppering her with questions about potty training and sleep cycles. She was the seasoned expert, dealing instead with screen time and homework routines.
I remember that she leaned across to me and whispered this glittery promise: “Someday, you will be able to say to your sons, ‘Go upstairs, take a shower, and get ready for bed,’ and they will. On their own.”
She may as well have spoken the legend of the holy grail. I’m still searching for that pot of gold.
In the meantime, I’ve learned the magical potion of Febreze. I actually sprayed it at them on a desperate occasion between football practice and a dinner party.
Or perhaps that has maybe happened on more than one occasion. And maybe a Sunday morning now and again.
I forever ask myself what parenting gaps I’m willing to apologize to their future wives for. Hygiene rises higher on the list.
Arlene Becker: The younger, they are the more often you should bathe them. You should try for at least once a day, especially when they are in diapers, or are still not completely toilet trained (nighttime bed wetters, for example). Then again, early in their lives they are into everything, like playing in the dirt with abandon. Later on, when they become more civilized, try a couple of times a week. Baths are fun for kids and it often relaxes them before bed.
Ask yourself, isn’t the greatest smell in the world the smell of clean hair and a clean body? And what’s the greatest smell of them all: the smell of a clean little one.
Susan L.M. Goldberg: Well, speaking as the parent of a newborn, when it comes to baths we try* to do it twice a week. That being said, we still haven’t ventured into the diaper area because that IS what wipes are for. Especially when you’re dealing with a healing circumcision.
*Note: I said “try.” In our house, the equation goes something like this: Number of baths per week = Number of times mommy and daddy both have the energy to tackle the chore together. When you have a rambunctious newborn who doesn’t stop moving their body even in their sleep, most baby tasks become a 2-man job. Especially when the potential for slippage is involved.
That being said, I have already taken on the awful Mom habit of licking my finger and wiping schmutz off my kid’s face. In the Jewish world, that’s a right of passage that lines up with taking your first Tums after Passover dinner. I’ve already promised my husband that putting plastic slipcovers on the couch is off the bucket list, so I guess my next task is to generate my own to-die-for brisket recipe. Don’t I just feel so domestic?
- B.O. is nothing to play around with, especially for boys, even more so for boys who play outside.
- Running water, whether from your shower head, a running creek, or a pond, can work wonders for dirt– but not for B.O.
- Greasy hair is nasty. Only shampoo or a strategic hat will fix greasy hair.
- You can go a lot longer without a shower than you think you can.
That said, my kid gets bathed…somewhat frequently. We both have sensitive skin, so too much water is a legit concern. Dirty fingernails freak me out and greasy hair is a must fix. Syrup and dipping sauces are only used on bath days. The goal is a bath every other day and the most he has gone between baths is 4 days. Smelly baby, sauce in hair, or greasy hair all call for an immediate bath.
Paula Bolyard: Oh my word, these answers made me laugh and brought back so many memories of when our boys (now 21 and 23) (both diligent self-bathers) were little. It seemed like they were always dirty, no matter how often we bathed them. I remember one time I dropped them off at the home of a friend who babysat them once a week while I worked. She met us at the door and said, “Can you have your kids wear something other than sandals to my house from now on? Their feet are always dirty and they get my comforters dirty when they take their naps.” I was mortified.
It’s not like we didn’t make an effort to keep them clean, it’s just that keeping little boys clean is an endless task and if you’re not careful, you can spend so much time and energy worrying about the dirt and the messes that you miss the joys of mud puddles and digging in the dirt and sliding into home in a huge cloud of dust.
The first year our son played t-ball he had a female coach who thought it was a good idea to bribe the kids: “Whoever stays the cleanest gets candy at the end of the game!” she told tiny baseball players. That was 10,000 times more appalling than my transgression of having little boys with dirty feet and it made me realize that because I was raising future men, I wanted them to enjoy getting their hands dirty and to relish playing outdoors without having to worry about mussing up their clothes or getting in trouble for having pond scum between their toes.
All of that to say, we didn’t really obsess about how often our kids were bathed. In the winter, when they were cooped up in the house during our long Ohio winters, they probably took baths once or twice a week. During baseball season or when they were out mucking around in the woods in the summer, there were sometimes two baths or showers a day. You can tell by looking at your kids (or sniffing them) when it’s “time.”
Also, a word of
advice warning to my friend Tricia: Today’s Febreze will become tomorrow’s Axe. “Silent but deadly” boy flatulence ain’t got nothin’ on the noxious Axe haze that hangs in the bedrooms of teenagers (and seeps into the rest of the house and stays until they leave for college). For the sake of the paint on your walls and your olfactory sanity, stop the Febreze fixes right now, before you get them hooked on the sugar!