Sounds easy doesn’t it? Not so for a hands on Latina, but at the time, I imagined lobbing my shimmery baton like a sassy drum majorette as I marched, hips and tassels swaying, daring my Man to do it better when we first became parents.
Chapter III – Autumn 1993
Early November graced us with T-shirt weather and the go-ahead from our doctor to give Sofia her first bath. Our friends recommended all sorts of bathtubs with brand names made up of a string of vowels and umlauts. My mother declared that tucking Sofia in the crook of my arm was the best way to dip Sofia into her bath.
“Just bathe her in the kitchen sink, like I did with all of you,” she said. “An inflatable bathtub, indeed.” My mother snorted. We decided on a small but awkward inflatable soft tub. We agreed to take turns bathing Sofia. One of us would bathe her while the other videotaped. Marty handed me the video camera and plunked Sofia into the water facedown on the tub.
“She’s going to suffocate!” I grabbed him by the shoulder.
“I’m fine.” Marty pulled his arm back.
“You’re going to drown her.” I reached out to grab Sofia.
Marty blocked me. I could almost hear my mother laughing at us.
A festive occasion dissolved into a full-blown argument because Marty wanted to bathe his little girl. I stormed out of the bathroom like a petulant teenager not getting her way.
Later, he appealed to my sense of fairness. “You have to let me do more. I’m not a bumbling oaf, you know.”
The truth stung. I knew he was right, but somehow, somewhere I had picked up on the notion that a mother’s Ten Commandments included my all-encompassing veto power. My commandments left him with those duties I avoided: rinsing diapers, mixing formula, and swabbing the tip of her umbilical cord stub. Marty challenged me and became a very involved father in spite of my insistence that as the mother, I was first in line.
A week later I had Sofia all to myself for her next bath and was ready to show off my skills and maybe even teach Marty a thing or two, when I almost dropped her head first into the bathtub. Marty said nothing, didn’t even gasp, but when I turned to look at him he was grinning from ear to ear. He’d caught it all on tape.
Now, I’ve passed the baton, countless times, to our teenage sons, only to hear a reverberating thud to the floor, followed by feral scavenging sounds for food. I no longer have visions of white GoGo boots or tassels.