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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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Of Octopuses and Snakes: My Bath Time Ritual

In my last blog post, I wrote about dads spending time with their kids. I didn’t go much into it, but my main source of dad time is bath time. My daughter Lily (1-and-a-half) is still pretty little, so her play consists mostly of drinking the bathwater and, if I’m lucky, not peeing in the tub. But over time Benny (4-and-a-half) has developed quite the detailed regimen of games that we play in the bath. The keystone of this is…

The Octopus Game.

The titular octopus from the octopus game
The titular octopus

8 Arms of Fun

But how do you play the octopus game? HOW YOU ASK? Well, first of all, you need to get yourself a plastic octopus. Ours came from the “tons of random stuff” section at Lidl. You’ve got your octopus? Good. Because Benny is going to say, “I wanna play the octopus game” over and over until you get it out.

First up is the first sub-game, The Sleeping Game. Benny lies down in the bath, clearly asleep. The Octopus, played by yours truly, tries to sneak up from Benny’s toes to the top of his head without waking him up. But dang it, wouldn’t you know that Benny wakes up and catches the octopus every time! My favorite part is trying out a different voice on each attempt.

Up next is Going To The Zoo. Benny kicks it off by saying, “Let’s go to the zoo!” The required response is, “How are we getting to the zoo?” The answer might be “Walking”, or “Two boats”, or “A plane, then a shoe, then a cup.” Once we’re at the zoo, we always visit the elephants first. The octopus daintily approaches the elephant but then BRRBRBR! The elephant trumpets a thunderous blast that shoots the octopus across the bathtub. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

Soon now, Benny will announce, “A bad guy is coming!” The part of the bad guy is played by daddy’s hand. The bad guy tries to steal the giraffes, or kidnap the baby, or some other heinous crime. But Benny always comes to save the day! Benny will squish the bad guy, or freeze him in ice, or melt him with hot bathwater. The multiple defeats of the bad guy continue until I can convince Benny to get out of the bath.

Slithering Out of the Bath

For a long time, there was no good way to get Benny out of his watery playpen. Usually, he would just want to keep playing and playing and playing. My strategy for a while was to make the bath just warm enough at the start, so 20 minutes later he would be cold and want to get out. But a couple of months ago, something magical happened. Getting out of the bath turned into a game!

For a while, we had played around after the bath with “hiding from snakes” under the towel, but somehow it turned into a ritual. Now, when I’m ready for the bath to be done, I stop dead in whatever I’m doing and glance nervously around, asking, “Wait, what was that?” Bennys face lights up and he gets an excited grin, and starts up hissing like no snake actually does, “Sssss.” I respond, “Oh no, it’s a snake!” and leap under a towel, shivering with fear. Benny clambers out of the tub, hissing like a tire pump. He sneaks up under the towel, and I shriek! Then I grab him and dry him off, each swipe of the towel a snake tickling him. Then we get under the towel together and hide from the snakes.

When getting out of the bath is a game, Benny gets excited about it, instead of whining and crying. I don’t know how much of my experience can be helpful to other parents, but that’s my one takeaway. Try to make your painful transitions into games that your kid gets excited about. Then just maybe, if you’re lucky, they’ll go a little easier.

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