Reclaiming privacy

Last night was the first night I have not had a bath with Maya in over a year. I don’t even like baths, particularly. Mommy daughter baths started off innocently, as a way to get her to have a bath when she was really cold and refused to get in. “How about Mommy gets in the bath too? Wouldn’t that be fun Maya?” But, like many things in our family, what was supposed to be an occasional thing has developed into a rather rigid routine.

I had told Maya on Sunday night that we were starting a new routine. I would have a bath with her that night, but not the next. I made sure she had heard me. She told me that she understood. The next night I poured her bath.  She got in and started playing. There was no “Mommy you get in the bath with me!” I was so excited by this unexpected cooperation that I rushed into the living room to tell Dave the good news. Just as I was whispering “She’s in the bath right now and hasn’t even asked me to come in!” I heard a small voice in the background say “Mommy I want num nums!” Silence as my elation deflates. “Mommy I want num nums!!” More silence as I decide how I’m to approach this. “MOMMY I WANT NUM NUMS!!!” 

I go into the bathroom. “Maya I told you last night that mommy is not going to have a bath with you tonight.” “But I want num nums mommy!” she says tearfully. “I know sweetie. You can have num nums when I put you to bed.” “But I want num nums now!” said even more tearfully. “I know sweetie. I know it’s hard.” Now the tearful pleas turn into wailing. Oh boy.

I sit by the bathtub and REMAIN CALM. I use my compassionate-counsellor voice and remember that this won’t last forever. And I wait and say soothing things, knowing that everything I suggest or say will be responded to with a “NO MOMMY!!!! I don’t want to do that!!!” It is at this point that I am eternally grateful for my training as a therapist. I spent a great deal of time having to sit with people (and not run away) while they experienced very intense and unpleasant emotions. And all I could do was be with them in that time, often in silence, and say the odd soothing thing. “Everything you are feeling is completely okay.” There were times when the intensity was intolerable. But I survived and I knew I would survive this. I tried as best as I could to exude compassion. It sometimes works.

The lovely thing about Maya is that she can often be distracted out of her anger or sadness. So I waited for an opening. After a few minutes of wailing, she stopped and played with a little bath toy. “That’s it!”, I thought. But she quickly remembered her despair and the wailing picked up where it had left off. As she was flailing her legs in protest, her foot made a squeaky sound. We both looked surprised and I pounced on the moment. “What was that Maya?” said with exaggerated surprise and delight. “Can you do it again?” And for the next few minutes Maya tried to get her feet to make the squeaky noise and giggled every time she did it. Tragedy narrowly averted!

When thinking about our bath routine and all of the other little funny routines we have developed in our family, I have concluded that whatever privacy I may have craved prior to Maya, it is completely absent now. When I am home, Maya is with me. Everywhere. This includes the bathroom. If I have to go the bathroom, Maya has to go to the bathroom. She will sit on her little potty and I will sit on the big one. And while we are going potty together, she will hand me her Pinky Bear and demand “Do Pinky Mommy!” And I will talk for Pinky Bear and she and Pinky Bear will have a delightful conversation.”Hi Pinky Bear!” “Hi Maya! How are you?” “I’m going pee pee!” “I can see that!” “That’s funny Pinky! Mommy your name is Flushie!”

But while I have abandoned any notion of privacy long ago, Dave still covets his. Especially privacy in the bathroom. Last night while we were getting Maya ready for bed, Dave was in the bathroom with the door shut. Maya and I were playing with her pizza set in her room. She wanted to bring Daddy a piece of pizza. I knew this would drive him nuts as he does not like to be disturbed when he is using the potty. So of course I said “Yes Maya I bet Daddy would love a piece of pizza!” And off she trotted to the bathroom with her piece of toy pizza for Daddy. “Daddy!!! I have a piece of pizza for you!!!” And he was a good sport the first time. “Thank you sweetie! But could you please go back to your room and shut the door? Please?” Not so much the second. Or the third. I sat in her bedroom laughing hysterically. Hopefully he won’t read this because he will be furious that I am writing about him using the facilities.

So this is me, on the road to reclaim a little bit of privacy from my daughter, who I love to bits. Not only am I taking my boobs back (see post below), but the rest of my naked body as well. Hopefully my laissez faire attitude towards nudity has helped Maya to be comfortable with her body. She has such a cute little baby body! From her incessant streaking through the house every chance she gets I am pretty confident that thus far, she has no body image problems. She also knows that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, and labia and a clitoris, even though she’s not always clear about who actually is a boy or a girl. She judges people’s sex by the length of their hair.

Another benefit of a general lack of privacy is unexpected moments of intimacy. I deeply treasure the intimacy that Maya and I have developed as we have shared these private moments. After her bath, for instance, she will run naked into our room and get under our covers. I will follow her and get under the covers too and we will wait for “Daddy Crane” to come and get us. (Daddy Crane uses his big crane arms to come and pick her up. Whenever he comes near she squeals and jumps into my arms). Snuggled together under the covers, looking into her face and mirroring her expression of joy, excitement and anticipation as she hears “Daddy Crane” coming, is a moment of private joy. It is like a part of me is observing and experiencing such awe and bliss that a moment like this can exist. So although I am may be slowly putting limits on physical privacy, those moments of private intimacy will be unbounded.