Bathe The Baby

In another time and place, curriculum and NOT incarceration was the prescription for what ailed us. Dezzy was one, out-of-control bundle of beautiful.  When she smiled the entire world illuminated and a hyper-vigilant intelligence beamed from her deep brown eyes.  But she was Dezzy and that spelled upset most of the time.  The uncharted, non-standardized curriculum adventure was to find interests that became the absorbing object of her attention, anything that sustained concentration was a starting point for this three year old.
            Her world really was a Ghetto, a violent one where she embodied the trauma and vibrated from repeated, parental power struggles which inevitably melted down into screaming, yanking, spankings and puddles of hot tears.  Naturally, her reflex was to reproduce the drama but this dynamic did not serve either her growth or her gifts.  Birth order was a big problem as she longed to be an only child but instead was wedged between an older sister and a toddler brother.  Attachment between daughter and mother was tenuous and the tug and pull of wills was something to behold. However, our darling girl loved babies and baby dolls and desperately wanted to be viewed as competent and to be complimented on her skill set. So, no surprise that one of her favorite roles became that of reliable caretaker, otherwise known as Queen of the Baby Minders.

          Queen Baby Minder was equally regal and bossy. The other children rightfully objected when she seized the community water table ordering everyone about, hence the purchase of a bathing basin where she ran the show without interference. Ours was not a Baby Beluga requiring fathoms of deep, blue sea so Dez learned to measure safe amounts using a calibrated plastic lab beaker.  Were we boiling potatoes or replicating the Polar Ice Cap?  Of course not, so which number on the thermometer constituted a moderate lukewarm?

          Babies need accessories, lots of them and the use of each item helped Dezzy comprehend the household economy of cost, care and conservation.  Our Bathing Cabinet eventually included sponges, infant soap, shampoo, oil, washcloths, hooded towels, diapers, powder, wipes, baby scale, bulb ear and nose aspirator and an oral medicine syringe.  Each item had a name with a vast universe of language and experience attached to it. Over time, this Three acquired a much more sophisticated vocabulary than the unrelated, alphabetized list of reform-driven sight words that the Special Treatment children rebelled against regurgitating every single morning on their Kinder carpet.
            Bathing the Baby allowed Dez to soothe herself, to behave lovingly, to memorize the lyrical emotions of bath and bedtime lullabies and to practice the gentleness that she was too often denied in her own stress-filled family.  Slowly, her fragmented self became integrated enough to join groups of others who welcomed her into their learning and their play.  Tantrums vanished as social negotiation emerged.  Exclusion or banishment to an isolation tank would have made her estrangement that much more acute, reproducing her affliction but not remedying it.  She became a student of life by remaining in the company of others and acquainted with herself while in pursuit of what interested her.