There is no better evidence of my husband and I partnering in this whole parenting thing than bath time. We are a well-oiled machine. He’s the entertainer. When our baby girl first gets in the tub for “splish-splash time” (aka wear her out right before bed), he makes silly faces and ensures she’s burning that energy while I run around grabbing towels and pajamas and overnight diapers. There are two reasons for our set roles: one, he would inevitably forget something and I would act as if this were the worst thing to happen in the world since Brothers and Sisters was cancelled; and, two, the only thing that scares me more than a tiny baby is a slippery, naked, way too easy to possibly drop tiny baby.
The bath itself is pleasant. It’s the getting out that requires skill and efficiency. Because we only have three minutes and twenty-six seconds (give or take of course), to get that girl ready for bed before the screaming-that-has-no-end begins. So we get to work. My husband diapers her and puts on her pajamas while I A&D her bottom, Aquaphor her face, and Eucerin everything else. As I slather and rub and make her even slippier and harder to hold on to, I get to take in one of my favorite parts of her little body: her smooth, silky, unblemished, flawless skin.
There’s just something about a baby’s skin. There’s no hair, no acne, no stretch marks, no varicose veins, no wrinkles, no scrapes or cuts or bruises. The only thing that gets in the way is the abundance of rolls on her thighs, but when you’re only five months old, these are socially acceptable and even considered cute. Not so much when you’re older and they’re covered in cellulite.
Rubbing that soft, perfect skin makes me so aware of her innocence, her vulnerability, her trouble free existence. Because marks on our skin are reminders of pain. The acne and stretch marks and varicose veins represent the pain of being uncomfortable in our own skin and the hatred we as woman seem to have toward our bodies. The wrinkles are physical evidence of all the stress and worry. The scrapes are cuts and bruises tell of the times we have fallen.
Her skin makes me think of all the other pains I want to shield her from: heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, loss.
I want to keep her skin this way. As if it is a testament to my ability to protect her, to defend her against all of the pain that accompanies life.
But I don’t really want to keep her from pain. Because she will miss out on so much. If she never has acne or stretch marks or varicose veins, she will also never learn to fully accept her body, flaws and all, as beautiful and strong and capable of doing amazing things. As much I hate the wrinkles around my eyes, they are simply evidence of how much life has brought me smiles and laughter (ok, they’re also from all the squinting I do because I let my husband talk me into buying the cute, trendy sunglasses that don’t actually block sun rather than the Grandma glasses my 100+SPF-wearing self wanted to buy). The scrapes and cuts and bruises will speak to my daughter’s willingness to take risks, to try something new, to get up and dust herself off and try again when she falls.
If she doesn’t experience heartbreak, then she also won’t feel the delicious thrill of being in love. If she doesn’t experience betrayal, she won’t know to value trust and loyalty. If she doesn’t experience rejection, she won’t appreciate what is needed for success.
Although her pain will be my pain (let’s not talk about the fact that I will probably call an ambulance the first time my daughter falls even though the blood coming from her knee won’t be enough to saturate a tissue), her joy will also be my joy. And knowing pain will allow her to more fully experience joy.
Right now that unblemished skin is a blank canvas. And each mark that she adds to it will tell a story. A story of a life well lived.