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For some reason, long before Michelle was ever pregnant, I had a weird feeling I was really going to enjoy bathing my baby. But who wouldn’t enjoy bathing a baby? It’s basically like rinsing off a hamster, with less risk of getting bitten. Today for the first time, we slipped Lev into a bath. This was long overdue. He had lost that new baby smell after about a week, and frankly was starting to smell like a hobo.
Side note: I love baths myself, to a disturbing degree. I find something about immersing myself in warm water deeply primal, like a return to the womb. It’s not just a way to get clean, it slows my mind down, and becomes an atavistic ritual: I fill the tub with mint and lavender bubble bath, light a candle, put on some classical music and submerge my head under the water and stay under for a minute or so, during which time I connect with a long-lost memory of being an infant inside my mother’s womb.
So when it was time for Lev’s first bath, it was laden with the weight of expectation. Like a baptism or going to one of those car washes in the Dominican Republic that’s also a strip club — it was either to going to be really fun/meaningful or something we would all never speak about again.
As we dipped Lev’s naked wriggling torso into the water, I felt like I should probably say some kind of Hebrew prayer but all that came out was a Tibetan Buddhist mantra. Lev began screaming as though someone was snipping his toes off with a wire cutter, despite the fact that he was being bathed in lukewarm water with organic soap by 3 pairs of hands (our nanny helped, since this was our first time and we didn’t want to mess things up with a slippery soap grip, and maybe squeeze him out of our wet palms like a watermelon seed, and send him shooting across the tiles).
After a few seconds of suds and rubs, he relaxed, and got his bath time groove on. Mainly he wept, as if parting with his primal baby dirt was a slightly sentimental affair.
The best part was towel time, which is when you lay around in a towel after a bath and eat mint chocolate chip cookies and talk about what TV shows you like. He also cried through a lot of towel time, but damn, he looked cute with his hair all wet and clean.
After he was dry, we laid him on the couch in the sun and rubbed shea butter on his buttocks with great vigor. (Michelle yelled at me for slapping his ass hollering, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ but I couldn’t help myself.) Lev was laying face down with his wrinkly-ass butt pointing south for maximum sun exposure.
True, he was still quibbling a little, but I knew deep down he liked the bath. He did instantly poop a little, which kind of ruins the whole point of taking a bath. But I figure it’s like when you join the Marines, and on your first night in the barracks, they beat you mercilessly after you fall asleep — a hazing gesture that says, “welcome to the team” and then everyone cuddles.
Maybe Marines don’t really do that. But the moral of the story is, I happen to be a black belt in bathing babies. I don’t want to take all the credit for this, but the lad has been sleeping like a donkey that was shot with a tranquilizer dart for the last few hours.
And he smells brand new again, like snow or a freshly baked cookie.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.