Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bath time

I’ve had this post bouncing around in my head for a while now but just haven’t gotten around to writing it out… Anyway, lately I’ve been spending a lot of time looking after the kids in this family. I also recently spent a week babysitting for friends of mine whose regular babysitter was on vacation. In the midst of all of that, I’ve gotten to give several baths. Now, I know you moms who have to bathe your kids 3+ times a day may disagree with me but as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to caring for young children there are few things I love more than bath time. Seeing the sheer joy on their faces and hearing their shrieks of laughter as they splash and play is just priceless. Yes, I may have gotten soaked in the process but it was worth it.

Before last month, it had been a long time since I given a child a bath. That might seem strange since I just spent that last year caring for young children but it’s true. The reason? Orphans don’t get baths.

All you adoptive parents know this. No matter where you adopt from, this is one first you don’t have to miss out on. Whether terrifying, thrilling or a combination of both, the first bath a once orphaned child has with their adoptive parents is almost always their first bath ever.

Based on my experiences, there are three reasons for this: a) a large staff-to-child ratio makes it impossible for caregivers to spend so much time with each individual child, b) poverty has made baths a luxury that they simply cannot afford, c) the workers quite frankly just can’t be bothered to give that kind of care. Over the past several years, I have seen all three of these causes at play.

In the summer of 2007 I spent three months volunteering at a baby orphanage in Uganda. It was a good orphanage, as far as orphanages go, where the volunteers and staff alike truly loved and cared about the children. Nevertheless, there were approximately a dozen babies in each group being cared for by two caregivers. When bath time came, the goal was efficiency not amusement. Younger babies would be washed in the sink while the older ones would stand in a sort of shower stall. While the babies were indeed washed with loving hands, bath time could best be described as an assembly line operation.

In Congo, not enough time/caregivers was one of problems but it was nothing compared to the lack of an even more important resource – water. Unlike like most homes in the village, we were fortunate enough to have a faucet with running water however it was simply attached to the wall and we would have to fill a jerry can and pour the water into a basin to wash the kids. Even then, the running water was not always reliable and there were many days (and even a couple entire weeks) where the children would have to make the 30 minute trek to the well to fetch water. On those days, water was precious and the goal of bath time was to get the kids clean whilst using as little water as possible. Half a basin of water would be used to wash at least a dozen dirty children and the thought of filling an entire tub with clean water for just one person would have been absolutely absurd.

Finally in Ukraine, while the large staff-to-child ratio was a factor, even a 1:1 ratio would not have solved the problem. The true problem was that the workers did not care. Bathing the children was regarded as a miserable task that had to be done and the goal of bath time was simply to get it over with. There were no loving hands or gentle touches. Instead children would be callously stripped of their clothes, carried by one arm and one leg over to the bathroom, dangled under the faucet while being vigorously scrubbed with a rough sponge, then tossed back on the changing table, wet and cold. Obviously, far from an enjoyable experience…

Those are the memories and images that couldn’t help but run through my mind as I enjoyed my recent bath time experiences. All I ask is that the next time you find yourself bathing your little ones, seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing their laughter ring through the air, please remember the orphans around the world and pray that mommies and daddies would step forward so that they too can experience that bath time bliss.


GrumpyJaxMomOf3 said...

Thank You for sharing. I had never thought of that before. I pray for all of these sweet orphans every day... I hope to bring one home soon.

Amanda said...

:( I am reposting this on Sat.