Monday, April 27, 2009

Take A Bath

When R was pregnant, my dad confided in me worries he had when my sister joined the family. He was scared to death of changing her diaper because she was a girl. Dad knew there was nothing wrong with changing his kids' diapers. He just felt uncomfortable with a girl.

Although I understood what Dad was saying, I never thought I'd feel the same. "I'm a modern daddy," I thought. Feminism has set me straight in matters of gender roles and understanding body politics and such. I could handle a daughter.

Then Lu was born.

Even then, I was fine. I have changed many a diaper without a second thought. I have done everything I can to be a caring and nurturing father.

Intimacy has been a struggle though. Lu certainly has that with her mother. Besides the special bond fostered through breastfeeding, R has a knack for engaging our daughter. They really do have a great relationship of which I'm envious.

The problem is that Lu's need for her mother's attention wears on her sometimes. R, like many mothers, needs a break once in a while. So, she gives Lu off to me to take on outings, play on the floor, feed her solid foods and bottles, and change diapers. All of this has helped to some degree.

However, there was one act with which I was not comfortable: bathing. Sure, I've given Lucia many baths. The difference is that I didn't take baths with her. R's done this many times. They have a lot of fun together. It's another one of those intimate moments they share.

R's been pushing me to take a bath with her in order to help build our bond. I resisted until tonight. But why did it take me so long?

I've thought about this a lot. Ever since I started working with kids at summer camp 16 years ago, I can remember being warned to never be alone and certainly not nude anywhere near a kid. This carried on into my years as an elementary teacher. It has been so ingrained in me that men should not be in such situations with children. This training has scared me to the point I didn't even want to bathe with my own seven-month-old daughter. How sad is that?

Luckily, R is a supportive partner. She wants Lucia and me to be close and to enjoy the same kind of intimacy they experience. However, she also wants me to be comfortable. It was even suggested that I could wear a bathing suit if that would make me feel more at ease.

We took our bath tonight. It was nice. Lucia had a lot of fun. She likes to gather her numerous bath toys all at once, nearly dunking her own head every time. I bathed her as I normally would, except that I occupied the tub with her. As the temperature of the water dropped, Lu became uncomfortable. I picked her up and she calmed down. Her mother entered and took the girl away in a towel to prepare for bed.

I'm glad I overcame my fears. I won't be able to do such things with Lucia for much longer. I should take advantage of this time with her.

It's too bad I'm made to feel uneasy or guilty all the time for nurturing my own child. It bothers me. While mothers face unrealistic expectations of their own, it's sad that fathers have to contend with so many constraints to being a nurturing parent.


Elizabeth Hornbeck said...

Hi, Zac, Interesting post. That's great that you started taking a bath with Lucia! N. and I both take baths with Eli and have since he was born; he's four now, and I wonder when we (I) will have to stop doing that. Bravo for overcoming gender stigmas. On the flip side of that, the whole mother-son thing is so frought with potential criticisms, along the lines of the "mama's boy," as if women shouldn't nurture their boys "too much" (whatever that means). L. is lucky to have such a thoughtful Dad.

KR said...

She is ridiculously cute. The photos just keep getting more adorable. With her little pensive face, agh! so cute.

Baddeley said...

Of all your blogs, this is the one I totally relate to considering my training with teaching as well! Having 2 daughters myself has always left me with those feelings of uneasiness when bathing, changing diapers, etc. I always wondered myself at what age bathing would become off limits for me with my daughters. I found out recently when bathing my oldest what age that is. As we were bathing, she looked down and noticed the difference between our anatomies. In my opinion, now that the difference has been noticed, it is time for me to cease the bathing with her and let her start becoming the young lady she will eventually become. I have also found that as they are getting older(my oldest will be 3 in Aug., my youngest turned 1 in Nov.)we are able to share those bonding and nurturng moments that you mention.