We parents are a bossy lot. It’s not our fault — we have to be, from the time these tiny beings accompany us home from the hospital. In the beginning, our bossiness is all about safety and telling our kids what not to do so they don’t get hurt. Do NOT touch the stove top. Do NOT eat lawn fertilizer. Do NOT hit your sister over the head with that plastic race car.
Later, we add in some positives, words that intend to be encouraging but are in fact equally as bossy. DO clean up your toys. DO say please and thank you. DO flush and wash your hands.
Around the time kids start school, we throw in advice to the mix. It’s a more subtle form of bossiness, but we’re really still telling them what to do. Try working on one subject first, take a break, then tackle the next assignment. Tell your brother how you feel instead of yelling at him. I always feel better after going to bed on time, really, why not give it a try?
This is the time that kids start ignoring parents, whose voices have suddenly turned into the wordless drone captured so aptly in the Peanuts movies: wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.
Come on, you know it’s true. How much can you remember of what your parents told you before you grew up and, as Mark Twain famously put it, your parents got a whole lot smarter?
Yeah, me neither.
But I do remember one thing my dad used to say all the time. ”Take a shower. You’ll feel better.”
He said it when I was in middle school and feeling uninspired to go to school that day (maybe some of those times I was actually, really sick, too). He said it when I was in high school, feeling sad over something that had happened. He said it so much over the years, it became more hilarious than irritating.
The thing is, he was right. There is something about taking a shower that revives you — getting clean, washing away the dirt (both real and metaphorical), starting fresh.
Getting time in the shower can be tough for at-home parents. Obviously, when you are a parent who works elsewhere, it’s in everybody’s best interest that when you arrive at the office your teeth are brushed and your body clean. But for those of us who don’t *have* to make ourselves presentable first thing in the morning, getting bathroom time quickly falls on the morning to-do list. Plus, especially if you have a baby or toddler, chances are your efforts will be rendered meaningless after a bout of spit-up or a scrambled-egg food fight.
When the kids got older, I chose sleep over showering in the wee hours of the morning. But, lately, I’m getting tired of mucking around in yoga pants, which are, honestly, a half-stitch away from my pajama pants. In fact, the kids seem to think they’re one and the same — “Geez, Mom, are you gonna get dressed today?” Me: “Why should I? I never see anyone but you people!” Har-dee-har-har.
The past year has been a tough one. Lots has been out of my control. There has been frustration and anxiety and depression. And somehow my laissez-faire approach to my appearance hasn’t done much for my state of mind. And so I remember my father’s words, and even though snuggling with my husband for a few more minutes seems much more appealing than waking up in the darkness, I get out of bed, have a cup of coffee, and take a shower.
If nothing else, I am clean and smell good, and if, god forbid, if someone happens to drop by unannounced, I won’t scare them away. But it’s more than that. When I was young, lazing about in sweatpants was the supreme act of comfort. Now that I am old(er), it’s just the opposite. The comfort now comes from taking care of myself, showing my best self to the world, even when things feel like they’re falling apart. Somehow that single act of taking a shower becomes one of hope, of optimism.
Dad, you were right. But don’t let it go to your head.