I hear screeching from the tub, and I enter to find Milo stretched full length attempting to practice his bubbling at the expense of Naomi’s space and comfort. Rugs were askew, and water soaked the bath mat. A sodden washcloth was dripping over the side onto the floor, where the lino has already been patched after buckling under the moisture.
“Right, Milo, you’re first to get your hair washed.” More screeching. I don’t care. In the back of my mind I know there’s more peaceful, humane way to bathe children, but I’m too frazzled to figure it out. So frazzled, in fact, that I try rubbing conditioner into his scalp and then wonder why it doesn’t lather.
“Naomi, if you splash any more water out of the tub, you’re getting out.”
“Me out!” she offered.
“Alright,” I agree, surprised and pleased that she volunteered. “Let me get your towel.”
There the agreeability ended. I put the towel on wrong. She didn’t want her hair rubbed. She wanted to leave the bathroom and trail water over the living room carpet. “No! no! NO!” she squawked, while my nerves jangled. Forcefully dried just shy of dripping, she exited at full tilt. I don’t remember how Milo got out, but he must have reached his towel on his own and gone streaking through the door.
I surveyed the soggy mess that we call a bathroom, then went and got a clean pair of undies from my drawer. I needed a shower too. And the bathroom needed a clean, or at least the tub did. No use doing the sink on a Sunday, when Jeremiah shaves on a Monday. I turned the key in the lock, the one door in the house that has a lock, hoping for a few moments of solitude.
Thirty seconds later the mayhem started outside the door. There’s an unwritten rule of motherhood—if you close yourself behind a door, the kids will suddenly feel the urgent need to be with you. Naomi, insulted by something or other, started wailing and pounding on the door. “Mommy! MomMee! MoMEEEE!” Milo, not to be outdone, started jiggling the door nob, peeved at finding it unyielding. I undressed, then started cleansering the tub.
The hubbub gets louder outside. I turn on the warm water, and stand under it for a moment. I hear some hard object hit the door, and vaguely wonder what it was. Jeremiah’s home, so presumably if real damage is being done, he’ll intervene eventually.
The noise outside doesn’t abate. I consider my exit strategy. There is one window to the outdoors, but it’s narrow and awkwardly high above the laundry wash sink, with a significant drop to the ground below. Plus it’s on the neighbor’s side.
I slowly wring out the myriad washcloths the kids had used, plus the sodden hand towel that had been roped into the scene. I leisurely pulled on my clothes. I plucked a few eyebrows. I considered washing the toilet. I wished I had remembered to grab my phone so I could read national geographic. I leaned on the door, contemplating the yowls still going strong on the other side. Then I felt foolish. How could I expect to escape mommy responsibilities by hiding in the bathroom? That’s five-year-old logic.
And besides, it didn’t work.
I sighed, wondering how life got to be so chaotic, and turned the key.