Sometimes being a parent makes me hate the Internet. There’s so much out there to scare you, or tell you you’re a bad parent, or make you feel badly about yourself. But then there’s the times when you find your toddler suddenly running away screaming from the bathroom, and you thank your lucky stars for BabyCenter message boards and lots of other mothers just like you wondering, “WTF, kid. I thought you liked the bath?!”

Owen loved the bath. Loooooved the bath. He would stay in there all day if I let him, splashing around and playing with his toys. Then about a month ago, Michael and I went away for our anniversary weekend and when we returned, Owen started to flip out whenever we put him in the tub. It would start with a little whimpering when I placed him in the water, would progress to crying when I tried to wash his face, and would end in full-blow back arching hysterics when it was time to wash his hair.

I asked my mom and sister if anything had happened in the bath while we were away (soap in the eyes, a slip in the tub) that might have caused this sudden fear, but they said he was happy as a clam when they bathed him.


For the past month, every bath as been a fight. I don’t like to see him upset and I’ve tried to make it as fun and exciting as I can, always telling him exactly what I’m washing and showing him how it’s not scary, but nothing has workd Thinking maybe he didn’t like water in his eyes or ears, I’ve tried everything from a washcloth to a cup to my bare hands to wash his hair, but nothing prevents the screams. It’s been a long bath month.

A few nights ago, we reached the peak of his fear. I started to run the tub and he went running the other way SOBBING and crying, “No, Mama! No, Mama!” I caught him, walked him through the getting nakey/getting into the bath routine, but the whole time he cried. And when he touched the water, you would have thought I placed him in molten lava, rather than a lukewarm tub. He trashed and tried to get out and it was just so sad.

Not knowing what else to do, I stripped down and climbed in the tub with him. See, I told him. It’s fine! Mommy is taking a bath too! It’s not scary! But he was too far gone at this point, and even letting him recline against me while I tried to wash his hair did not ease his fears. It was so heartbreaking, but I didn’t want to cry along with him and reinforce his fears.

We got out of the tub, him shaking like a leaf in my arms, and that’s when I turned to the message boards. HELP ME.

Apparently this is kind of common? This sudden fear of the water? At least it was common with the 40 or so commenters that gave me lots of ideas to choose from. A bath is a non-negotiable in my eyes, so the next day I psyched myself up for some crying, and armed with my list of The Bath Is Not Scary ideas, I jumped in.


I ran the tub…for me. Owen watched as I tested the water, did some splashing and climbed in. He laughed as I washed my face and when I started to play with the rubber duck, he asked to come in. Together we played. He let me wash his body without a fight. This was progress. I know that one day it won’t be appropriate for him to see me naked, but right now, seeing me take a non-scary bath seemed to be doing the trick.

But there wasn’t a ton of water in the tub and it was many degrees cooler than I would have made it if it were just for me, so soon enough I was cold and wanted out. He remained content playing, and I knew I might be pushing it, but I wanted to try and wash his hair.

But not before one more trick.

I took Michael’s shaving cream – the gel kind – and squirted it into the bath. Look, Owen! It looks like blue wormies! Can you catch them?

He freaking LOVED the blue wormies. He didn’t love me washing his hair, but he didn’t flip out about it quite the same either. All in all, a bath success.

He’s due for another bath today. I’m going to try it soon, actually. I’m not going in with him this time, but I am armed with lots of blue wormies, of course.

Wish us luck!