I am readjusting again.
There has been a hasty transition lately from a world where small missions are accomplished in a basic, head-on manner to a parallel—yet much more complex—universe where most tasks that involve my daughter and her daily living needs must be done using creative, gamey, thoughtful, intuitive techniques in order to have any hope of being achieved.
Gone are the days when changing a diaper consisted of, simply, changing a diaper and when the most difficult part about getting Opal dressed was choosing what outfit was most suitable and fetching for the day. In short, though a straightforward approach to most things is deeply habitual, it is no longer successful. I'm consistently stopped in my tracks and forced to backtrack, take a deep breath and start over with a little song and dance.
Bathtime used to be nothing but easy joy. The trio of floating frogs with their squirting bellies, the two tiny buckets to pour water to and from and the massive mama-frog that works as a reptilian-dinghy for all the aforementioned items had always been a recipe for glee and hygienic success. But, as of late, simply putting her into the bath renders a response of sheer terror, as if I'm holding her over a bubbling cauldron of lava: kicking, writhing her slippery little body in my arms, screaming, red-faced and arch-backed (pretty standard tantrum-fare rendered much more dangerous due to the slick-factor). Entering into the bath now requires coaxing, a gentle introduction to the three frogs and an impromptu production on their behalf, involving melodies, water-boogies and splashes, to invite the small child into their warm, soothing waters. Peek-a-boo is played with the washcloths. A travel-sized shampoo bottle is used as bribery.
And once we've crossed that threshold, we can definitely celebrate a major triumph, but we cannot yet rest on our laurels. There is one other element of bathtime that required nearly six solid months of baths to figure out: hair-washing.
It's not the hair-washing that's the problem, actually, it's the rinsing of the soap. Ever since Opal became physically strong enough to resist lying back to rinse soap from her hair, she has done just that, and with a fervor and determination that is unshakable. I've tried covering her eyes with a washcloth. I purchased a clever, albeit gimmicky, foam visor that boasted keeping 'the suds out of your little one's eyes,'—an item Opal practically scoffed at and tore from her head at first attempt. So, frankly not knowing what to do, and not being able to convey to Opal, honey, if you don't lean back, soap suds are going to go into your eyes and all over your face and make you cough and rub your eyes and be miserable, I just did what I had to do as quickly as I could. A stressful, but thankfully fairly brief, story within the story of bathtime.
Until just last night. After an alluring and successful bathtime opus, she got into the tub with minimal resistance and I was feeling especially capable as a parent. (A feeling that comes and goes, and often—admittedly— is decided by whether an action is deemed successful or not.) I was experimenting with water games and rhymes to inspire a smile or two while dousing her in lavender suds, when I pointed up to the shower nozzle, where a basket of colorful shampoos were hanging. She looked up. I kept pointing and she kept looking up, plenty long enough for me to wash and rinse her hair without her even seeming to notice! After many many months of struggle, all I needed to say was Look Up.
We are learning our way.
Sometimes the Elvis magnet allows for a smooth and resistance-free diaper-change. Sometimes the plastic cup filled with a black beaded necklace occupies Opal long enough for me to slide her into the high-chair without back-arched, cartoon-blur kicking. Sometimes a sticker is all I need to get her into the carseat. Poofs (glorified Cheerios) are sometimes successful bribes for many tasks.
But sometimes not.
And so goes the story of our one-year-old learning to assert herself in a world where most things are out of her control and jurisdiction. She is at the very beginning of a world where she is able to communicate her wants and needs, but often isn't yet able to decipher between the two. She is doing her job of pushing against authority and sustaining a healthy sense of skepticism in most things, and she is doing it beautifully. All that makes perfect sense to me, and sometimes I'm even able to appreciate it.
But we still need to cut your fingernails, little darling.