The Meticulous Planning and Serendipitous Aligning of The Planets to Take a Bath

Four toddlers appearing so innocent.

Yesterday a new friend asked me how I ever showered with four little ones around. It got me to thinking how rare and cherished a shower was. If I could work one in, it took meticulous planning and serendipitous aligning of the planets.

​Around 6:00 a.m., noises started coming from the kids’ bedrooms. If one woke, all woke so we tried to catch it before chaos broke out. Trading off, Jason or I staggered out of bed to grab the pre-made bottles from the fridge, pass them out, and fall back into bed, hoping for a few more minutes of peaceful dozing before hitting the ground for the day. There was no way I was giving up that chance for more shut-eye to get in the shower.
 While they were in there with the bottles — and Jason and I pretended we didn’t hear their giggles — they created this great game. So ingenious my kids. Such team players. After that first breaking of the fast, they left the last ounce or so for this terrific game they invented. (This was mostly Charlie and Pierce, in a room together with cribs a couple feet apart — far enough to keep them from too much mischief. Or so we thought.) They used their bottles to draw on the walls. Baby formula is thick and sticky. Bottles are like little hoses, if you hold them at an angle and spray the formula out of the nipple in a nice steady stream. Every morning they stood at the end of their cribs and painted the wall with milk. For Jason and me, it was always the conflict of “Do I stay with my exhausted face plastered to this pillow just ten more minutes?” or “Do I take them out of the cribs as soon as they’ve been sated and engage with their little minds to help them use their time constructively?” Guess which choice won? Every time. I certainly wasn’t entertaining ideas of showers when I couldn’t even get up to stop them from making the terrible messes I’d have to clean later.
 Once Jason left for work, it was all me, baby. I had to keep them in line. Showers? There was no time for showers. Such indulgence that would be. Personal hygiene was at its lowest. When I started going to my weekly moms’ group, I hated seeing all those cute, styled, dressed-up energetic cheerleader-type moms who looked ravishing. How in the world did they do it? I wore clothes I sniffed real good before I went out of the house. My hair was always up in a ponytail or hair clip. I hoped the smelly spritz I sprayed lasted till I got home.
 One time, I naïvely thought the kids were corralled safely and I could dash into the shower for about three minutes. Three of them were behind a gate in their bedroom doorway. And Charlie was loose. I thought it best to keep him separated so they wouldn’t get into too much mischief in the bedroom together. Charlie was their idea man.
 While I sped through my boot camp shower, Charlie entertained the troops. He’d made a game of dumping stuff over the gate set up in the hall bathroom doorway across from their room. Because I bought in bulk to save money, he had an entire Costco-size box of Q-Tips to dump over the gate onto the floor. And then it must have really sent his siblings into giggles when he squeezed all the toothpaste on top of all those cotton swabs. The added lotion surely left them all in hysterics. By the time I came out, the cosmetic soup was done. And so was I. So done.
 Another day, all I wanted was to be alone, to have a moment when no one was touching me, when no one was talking to me, when all stimulation stopped and I could just Be. By. Myself. I’d gotten a little stash of chocolate, and fantasizing about a long soak in a hot bath, candles, wine, chocolate, and soft music, I locked myself in my bathroom. I didn’t care anymore what they did out there. I just didn’t care. In my tiny bathroom, there were no candles, no music. There wasn’t even a tub. Bathing wasn’t my goal anymore. I just sat on the floor by the toilet and scooted into a corner to hide. Closing my eyes, I took a bite of my chocolate.
 Then noises started to grow outside my locked door. “Go play!” I begged. “Mom is busy.” But little hands started sliding into my sanctuary under the door. Then voices. They wanted to come in. “Mama, in.” I stared at the crack under the door. I could see their shadows moving, the wiggly fingers. They wouldn’t go away. I couldn’t hide. So I stashed my chocolate and let them in. They crawled all over me, there on the floor. My respite had lasted all of five minutes, if you don’t count the fingers under the door.
 So the answer to that question of how I showered with four little ones around? I mostly didn’t. But I got a little more sleep, and we got some nice art work on the walls, and crafty soup piles on the floor. And once kindergarten came, I could actually work in regular hygiene. And before I knew it, they went away to college. Now I shower whenever I want for as long as I want. And I don’t have to hide my chocolate anymore.

— Hello! I have quadruplets, I’m an editor and writer, and I like to make every subject as interesting or funny or thought provoking as possible. If you’d like to follow me, I’d love the connection with other readers. I blog every day, on a year-long dare. Each day is a different theme, with parenting and kids and writing and history and flash fiction and op eds. I’d love your support! Thanks!

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