In a Lather Over Bath Time
My husband showers with our 5-year-old. Is it time to stop the communal bathing?
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I have a 5-year-old daughter who loves to take showers and baths with my husband and me. Sometimes just with me, sometimes just with him, sometimes all three of us together. Is it a bad idea for my husband and daughter to still shower together? I am always in the house, and she doesn't like showering alone. We've been doing it since she was a baby, and nothing creepy is going on, but I noticed my husband is getting uncomfortable. If my husband or I am in the whirlpool tub, she unlocks the door and hops in. She also walks into the bathroom during "private" bathroom functions. Is this OK? I know at some point we will have to break her of it. If she hears one of us say "shower," she brings her jammies down and hops in. Is this bad or potentially harmful?
Context matters. In Japan it is not unusual for both parents to bathe with their children even beyond toddlerhood. In some Nordic countries, whole families go into the sauna together. In your household, all of you are casually comfortable with nudity and bodily functions, so your daughter will grow up with a healthy lack of shame around this. However, that doesn't mean the potty parties should last forever. It's time for your daughter to start understanding the concept of privacy. Explain that when you and Daddy are on the toilet, you want to be alone, so each of you is going to shut the door, and she needs to wait until you're done. Since your husband is starting to feel uncomfortable with the family bath hour, he has to follow his instinct and lather up solo. He can tell your daughter now that she's getting so big, it's time for just the girls in the house to shower together. Your daughter may always be the kind of free spirit who's only too happy to drop her drawers for a dip in the hot tub—which may present its own set of problems around 2021. But it's just as likely that in a few years you will discover you are living with a modern-day Puritan who cringes at the thought of seeing her parents' flesh or letting you see hers. And since you mention she loves to unlock the door of the whirlpool herself, invest in childproof locks; you don't want your little mermaid bathing without supervision.
Dear Prudence: Housewarming Blues
I'm in my early 50s and have been happily married for more than 20 years. I am also an only child to two 90-year-olds in failing health, and I'm committed to helping my parents fulfill their wish of dying in their own home. They have part-time help, but there is still plenty for me to do: doctor appointments, late-night falls, thrice daily visits, even combing Mom's hair because no one else can do it in a way she likes. As a result, I've been preoccupied and quick-tempered. I long for this phase of my life to be over, and then I feel guilty for thinking such a thing. The truth is, my husband is not my top priority right now; I just have too many other pressing responsibilities—like lifting mom on and off the toilet 10 times a day. We've tried date nights, but they are frequently interrupted by phone calls from my parents in need. Going on a vacation is impossible. Whether my husband and I are watching TV or making love, my mind is on my parents. I now worry frequently about my own old age and want to craft a suicide plan for the day when I can no longer enjoy life. When a previously strong couple faces a bad spell, what can they do to get back to the closeness they had before?
When your parents' wish to die in their own home is killing you, it's time to rethink their final plans. Of course you want to help your parents to the best of your ability. But if that means capsizing your marriage, going without vacations, or being unable to enjoy life's pleasures, then your parents are asking too much. A nursing home does not have to be an ammonia-scented warehouse. I've been to depressing ones, and I've been to lovely ones. Your parents clearly need round-the-clock care. If they were getting it at a facility, you could start paying attention to your husband again and return to being your parents' daughter instead of their nurse. They're in the final round, yes, but it could last months or even years. When you find yourself longing for their deaths and fantasizing about your own, something's got to change. Whatever you do, it will be hard, but you can't sacrifice your life and sanity for the sake of overseeing your parents' end.
My wife and I have recently learned that we are going to have our first child. The pregnancy was unexpected. Nonetheless, this is wonderful news, except for one thing: The due date falls on the same day as my sister's wedding, which will be held eight hours from where we live. My sister loves being the center of attention, and we worry that she will think we are trying to steal the spotlight on her special day. We are almost certain that she will throw a fit when we tell her that we cannot attend her wedding, because she has a history of throwing temper tantrums over perceived slights. We feel terrible about the situation, but there's nothing we can do about it. Any tips on how to break the news so I'm not writing to you again in a year about my estrangement from my sister?