I read somewhere that 90% of all accident-related injuries occur in the home, and that 90% of those occur in the bathroom. I can’t remember where I read these statistics, and I don’t much feel like Googling them now, but I can tell you from personal experience that the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house, especially if you have small kids.
Even though my son is a rough and rowdy five years old, well past the age where I have to worry that the weight of his head will capsize him headfirst to drown in seven inches of off-white soapy water, I still feel a little uneasy about leaving him alone in the bathtub.
That’s because his mischief meter, already usually hovering around a 7, invariably pegs the needle the moment his feet hit the water. No matter how scary I try to make my voice, no matter how implicitly I threaten severe violence (because explicitly threatening it would be bad parenting) if I see one more drop of water on the floor, the thrill of splashing, sloshing, pouring, spitting, flicking, and kicking us more than he can resist.
You know that move where you slide back and forth from one end of the tub to the other, and the water starts to move with you, but then you push off the other end of the tub so you’re going one way and the water’s going the other, so there’s a big collision/wave-break/splash in the middle? We all did it. Well, he does it too and I now understand why my mother couldn’t quit smoking cigarettes till I was in high school.
It’s one thing to find a big, wet mess that someone else made and know that it will take at least two clean towels (an embarrassingly precious commodity in our house) to clean it up. It’s another to know that at least half that mess is in an incredibly hard-to-reach spot under the bathroom sink cabinet and between the cabinet and the bathtub. But nothing boils the blood like knowing that said mess was created in direct contravention of your own explicit orders.
When he got big enough, I began to make the boy clean up these messes himself, figuring that might help him think twice before swinging Buzz Lightyear at the surface of the water like a golf club, but it was not long after that that he came up with his own bathtub cannonball, where he straddled the tub with his feet on opposite edges, then sprung vertically and landed in a squat in the middle of the tub. I once left him alone in the tub for literally ten seconds to take something out of the oven and heard a hellacious splash-thump; I hurried in there, worried that the boy had hurt himself, and found him giggling in the tub in about three inches of water (with a solid quarter inch on the floor) and so much dripping off the ceiling it looked like maybe the toilet upstairs was leaking.
We seem to have reached some kind of detente: he still manages to get at least half of the water out of the tub with every bath he takes, but he also understands that he has to clean it up afterward, which he does without much complaint. For my part, I have learned to keep smoke from coming out of my ears when he gets water all over the place, and eventually lowered my guard enough to just let him take his 40-minute baths unsupervised. (I used to do all my best reading sitting in there with him, but he was soaking my books!)
So it was the other night when I put him in the tub for his biweekly bath and went out to the kitchen to start cooking dinner. I give him the standard warning that I don’t want to see any water on the floor and that if I do, he will be forced to clean it up at gunpoint blah blah blah but by this time it’s boilerplate, a mere formality. He nods politely, I leave the bathroom, and pause to listen for the first tentative sloshes that I know will soon resemble the wave pool at a waterpark. But they do not come! The boy seems to be obeying for once. I shrug and go back to the kitchen.
Ten or fifteen minutes go by and I go back to the bathroom — not to check on him, but by biological madate. I do my business and can’t help noticing the boy is quiet. A little too quiet. First I notice the razor, the one his mom uses on her legs, in his hand. Then I see the hair floating in the tub. Then I see that he’s absolutely beaming. Then I see what he’s done.
He has shaved a vertical stripe, about a quarter inch wide and two inches long, right in the center of his hairline. My first impulse is to look for blood, but there is none: amazingly, he’s managed to shave this line into his head all the way to the skin, taking a good bit of the surrounding hair with it, without cutting himself.
“Does it look like a stripe?” he asks me excitedly, and my first reaction, which is to get angry and yell at him, evaporates before it starts. He’s very pleased with himself, of course, because he has not yet been in front of a mirror. When that moment comes a short time later, he sees that he looks like the world’s youngest serial killer, and I can see him visibly register some regret– quite possibly the first sincere regret of his short life.
So I decide to just go with the flow on this one. No need to rub it in. It’s not like I’m the one who looks like I need to pull the front of my wig down, so why should I get stressed out?
Ironically, I think he was going for a faux-hawk, he just got the polarity reversed. He’s been asking for a faux-hawk for years and I just can’t bring myself to let him have one. I just can’t have him walking around the world like that, because it sends a clear message to the world: “my parents take kiddie style cues from the Jolie-Pitts.” That is not a message I wish to send.
When his mother gets home, she also manages to keep calm at first sight of America’s shortest death row inmate, probably because I intercepted her at the door and braced her for it. After a long sermon about how razors are dangerous and he could have really hurt himself, and PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE RAZORS ANYMORE, we leave him sitting with a puzzled look with his bangs floating around him and try to decide what to do.
“Maybe we just give him the faux-hawk,” she offers. She’s never opposed the fauxhawk like I do. I think she’s secretly Team Jolie, but she’ll never admit that. I point out that what he’s done is the opposite of a faux-hawk, and the idea is quickly dropped. Next we discuss shaving it all off, but that would just accentuate the shave line. We could really shave it off, all the way to the skin, like he did to himself in that one spot, but we decide against making him look like the shortest castmember on Breaking Bad.
It’s decided that as ridiculous as he looks, what he’s got is the best possible version of the lobotomy-scar haircut, because we can tousle what he’s got left over to cover up his racing stripe. It has turned out to be more difficult to do that than anticipated, so some otherwise lovely family pictures have been marred by what we now refer to as “the incident.”
So going forward, we have a few goals: 1. Don’t leave the razors where he can reach them. 2. Even if you have to dress like you’re at a Gallagher show, don’t leave him alone in there. and 3. Figure out a way to briefly seize Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox, or Vivienne Jolie-Pitt and shave a vertical stripe into the center of their hairline. Next time the kid is in Star or Us or Them or whatever, the Lobotomy Scar will be as popular as the Faux-Hawk was a few years ago, and the Rachel a few years before that and it will seem that we are not only ahead of the curve, we’ll have photographic timestamped proof that the Jolie-Pitts are biting our style. (I remain Team Aniston.)