Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I am ecstatic - yesterday Valerie had a bath with NO CRYING! I do not know how long it has been since such a miracle has occurred - more than a year, for sure.

The usual scenario goes like this: Sunday morning we tell her "it's bath day," and she immediately breaks down into huge, panicked sobs. She doesn't fight us as we take off her clothes and diaper and carry her into the bathroom, but when we put her in the tub she screams and scrambles frantically to get on my lap. I end up getting completely soaked because I have to hold her close to me as I wash her.

Once she started talking it got even more heart-breaking - she'd sob "Val-Val all clean! Val-Val all clean! Dada get towel!"


Once Terry left I didn't have anyone to watch Gabriel while I bathed Valerie - he (Gabriel) gets upset when he hears her crying - so I waited until Monday when Shpresa was here. She witnessed our routine and then this week she had some suggestions. They were things I had tried before, but she encouraged me to try again. One sign that it might work was that the previous evening when I'd been giving Gabriel a bath, Valerie had come in to watch and saw him laughing and splashing and having a great time.
  1. Suggestion the First: get out the bath toys. I'd tried this when we first moved in here, and she'd shown absolutely zero interest in them, so I quit getting them out. However, yesterday I remembered that there were some bathtub toys in our shipment that she hadn't seen in a long time, and she might be excited to see them again. While I was getting those, I also found some stacking cups that I thought she might be ready to play with again too.
  2. Suggestion the Second: get in the bath with her. This was something I'd tried as well when we moved in again and it didn't seem to help, so I'd given up.
  3. Suggestion the Third: very slowly and carefully wet her hair without using the spray nozzle, and making sure not to let the water run into her face. Lately my strategy has been to just get the job done as fast as possible, so I've been using the spray nozzle - which she haaaaaates - I use it because it gets to her scalp through her thick hair better than when I just pour.
Soooooo... I did all those things, and IT WORKED!!!! More than that - a couple times while I was washing her hair she said "Val-Val fun!"

I really and truly thought that rehabilitating bathtime for Valerie would take at least several weeks of patient step-wise coaxing, I never thought we'd do it all in one go. It actually gives me hope for potty-training and much to think about in that vein (yeah, I gave up on the potty training after one emotional and tear-filled morning).

The stacking cups really, really helped. While I was running the bath and getting her towels ready she found the cups and started playing with them in that absorbed, intent way she has with something new that catches her interest. So when the bath was ready, I asked her if she wanted to play with the cups in water, and after an initial "no" and some hesitation, she came with me into the bathroom and started throwing the cups into the water.

WOW that was fun! I let her do that for about 10 minutes, and then I said "I'm going to get into the bathtub" and got undressed and got in myself. I was glad I did because the water was hotter than I thought. So she played some more and I splashed in the water, and then once she started getting her clothes wet, and the water felt like a good temperature to me, I said, "Honey, today is bath day" and she cried a little, but I said "you can play with your toys in the water!" and she let me take off her clothes and even said "take bip [diaper] off" through her tears and once she was in she got absorbed in her play and stopped crying!

After a while I very slowly and gently started washing her hair and got not a peep of protest! I didn't feel like her hair got as clean as it does when I use the sprayer, but that's a small, small price to pay for a tear-less bath.

When the water started to feel chilly I said "time to get out" and she stood up and we got out and went and dried off and got dressed and she was laughing and smiling and happy the whole time and I am just so thankful for Shpresa who helps me be a better mother.


Rachel said...

There are many times when I wish I had someone like Shpresa around to help me problem solve. Your time in Albania may bless you in more ways than you thought possible.

tara said...


anita said...

This post fills me with joy. Lotus feels betrayed and heartbroken when I wash her hair too - that's why I cut her hair off, but I still have to rinse when she puts shampoo in it herself. I had to hide the shampoo. She just doesn't understand "if you put that in your hair mama HAS TO rinse it out." She has a little bit of cradle cap. Solana cried every time until she learned to dip her head back. That changed everything. I'm so happy you had a breakthrough.