“I firmly believe that the way we bathe a child or discuss family matters at the dinner table reveals who our God is.”
Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith
Bath time has always been daddy’s domain in our house. A lovely way for two to bond at the end of the day, while mama gets two minutes to herself (or just as likely, throws in a load of diapers, folds the laundry, tidies up the toys…some people in this house do “down time” better than others).
I love to eavesdrop on F and S talking to each other in the bath, singing* and splashing. The occasional protest is shrieked when a head is dunked. Bubble towers are foamed high; rubber ducks are sunk low. Every toy is first thrown into the water, then chucked out of the tub with equal glee. Father and son both relax and wind down; bedtime draws near.
When I came across this line from Kathleen Norris, a wonderful spiritual writer, it gave me pause to wonder what S might be learning about God from his bath time routines. I believe fully and firmly that family life is central to faith, and it is within these four walls of the childhood home that we learn our first lessons about who God is and who we are called to be.
And so I hope that the God revealed to S through bath time’s peacefulness and playtime is a God of intimate love. A God who cares as closely as a father focused on his child. A God who delights in daily rituals. A God who is found in both quiet calm and companioned fun. A God who counts all the hairs on our shiny wet heads. A God whose waters cleanse us afresh each new day.
Sometimes I find myself wistful that S will not remember these days – the delights of babyhood, the discoveries of toddlerhood – since his capacity for memory is still forming. And yet every day psychologists and scientists discover more deeply how crucial the foundation of these early years proves to be. We learn to trust, to love, to relate from the ways we are treated before we can even speak, before we can remember the good or bad done to us.
So my prayer is that the imprint of these loving bath time moments with his father will be a source of love and tenderness for S as he grows. Someday he will certainly groan and roll his eyes at the tub photos, the lovely baby skin all rosy and new among the bubbles. But I hope that the lessons of love his father demonstrates to him – in the concrete everyday of washing and playing, sudsing and drying – will last as long as his first glimpses of our good and loving God.
* Lest anyone mistake us for a house of piety, tonight’s bath time tune as sung by F was Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in The Wall.” Apparently we’ll be working on respect for education and authority another night.