Evan loves water. He loves to swim, and loves oceans, and rivers, and baths.
He loves water so much that once he left a neighborhood party (in early May), and wandered onto a neighboring property. He shimmied down an embankment, walked along a retaining wall until he got to a low point in the wall, and jumped down, into the pool area. I noticed he was missing, ran across the front lawn of the house we were visiting, and saw him down in the next door neighbor’s backyard pool area, standing on the edge of the diving board. He was peering down toward the water, grinning, and flapping his arms.
I simultaneously screamed for my husband (or maybe I just screamed unintelligibly, which is far more likely) and ran toward the pool area, hoping that the gate was unlocked so I could get in without any of the gymnastics Evan had performed. By the time Randy and I got to Evan, he was in the water. We reached down and yanked him out…cold and sputtering, he looked at us for a second, and walked off, splash splash splash, down the driveway and back to the party.
Since then, we’ve really worked very hard to keep him out of the water. (We’ve also worked on his swimming skills). We’ve never had to try to get him into water.
Until last week. Last week, Evan decided that he has had enough water and never wants to get into the bathtub again. Not that he told us this. He didn’t have to. He just stood outside the tub, buck naked, looking in, and refused to move.
Evan’s a skinny kid, but crazy strong. Have you ever forced a 50-pound naked kid into a tub? It isn’t easy. Ever tried to reason with a naked autistic kid? Virtually impossible.
We’ve had conversations like this. “Evan, get in the tub.”
Evan: “Get in the tub.”
Me: “Evan, get in the tub.”
Evan: “In the tub.”
Me. “Evan. Look at me. Do I look happy? Or Angry?”
Evan: “Happy or Angry.”
Me: “Mommy is angry. You need a bath, Evan.”
Evan: “You need a bath.”
Finally, I put one of his favorite Youtube videos on my phone. I get the video queued to the opening scene and pause it. Evan yells. I tell him I will play it when he gets in the tub. He dips a toe in. I press play. He pulls the toe out and up into the air. I press pause. I tell him to stand in the tub. He puts his toe back in. We go on like this until I start demanding that he stand with that foot in the water and put the other toe in. Play, pause. Foot in, play, foot out, pause.
This goes around and around for an hour or so. AN HOUR OR SO.
The next night we repeat it, maybe getting him standing on both feet for the duration of the six minute video, while we essentially sponge bathe him in the tub. On subsequent nights, we move to squatting down, kneeling, sitting with one arm raised up in the air (we still have no idea what’s behind that move).
During the day, we remind him, “Evan, tonight you’re going to take a bath, right?” He looks right at me, smiles, and says, “Angry!”
But at night, we’ve made incremental progress.
Until yesterday, when we started at zero again. We don’t know why this happens. We’ve adjusted for all variables…time, temperature, tub toys, washcloth. I asked him if he’d rather take a shower, and he practically flung himself from the tub to avoid the terrifying shower head. Tonight, we’ll start all over again.
I wish I could say that there is some magic formula that is going to stop all of this, but I know better. It is more likely that eventually we will slowly work back into the bath habit, until the next eccentricity comes along.