When Najwa was 3 months old [maybe 4] giving her a bath was like subjecting her to waterboarding. Maybe the water’s too hot? Not hot enough? Maybe all babies let out bloodcurdling screams when the water touches their bare bottoms?
If Nduku ever wanted me to do something, all she had to do was say we were about to give Najwa a bath. “Wash the car? I’m on it.” “Watch more reality TV? We can DVR it and rewatch it after it goes off.” “Vote for a Republican? It is secret, right?” Standing pat while torturing Najwa with a bath was a bit more than I wanted to bear so early into fatherhood.
Fortunately Nduku never figured out I was at her mercy; unfortunately, that meant I had to help hold Najwa down while we poured hot acid on her called body wash and shampoo. For a 10 pounder, Najwa had some guns. Holding her still was like wrestling an alligator. I almost joined a gym to get in shape to keep still an infant during her bath.
And then, out of nowhere, Najwa embraced the bath. She loves the water. When she hears the toilet flush, she beelines to the bathroom as if she mistaken Ex-Lax for chocolate. When we’re passing by the water at the Navy Memorial, Najwa reaches for the water as if it’s the fountain of youth and she’s not just 10 months old.
Then after taking Najwa to play at the fountains of the Sculpture Garden and Columbia Heights, Nduku and I decided to take Najwa to some real water — The Atlantic Ocean.
Rehoboth Beach is an interesting place, if that’s the right word. I’ve heard a lot about it, and though I wasn’t expecting high rise casinos, Baywatch looking beach-goers and Ferris wheels, I did think we would have more than a 5×5 foot box of sand to call our own. Perhaps 90+ degree heat forces everyone to seek relief at the beach, but it was crowded like the rush hour red line Metro train in Washington, DC.
Eventually, though, we claimed our territory on the beach, seeking refuge under an umbrella from the sun in case our melanin needed a break. We stuffed Najwa in her swimwear, prepared the camera to capture her reaction to some real water and plotted a course to the shoreline.
At the edge of the United States, I sat with Najwa and waited for a ripple of water to head our way. Dodging kids aged somewhere between toddler and preteen, Najwa and I sat as this tiny roll of water headed to the shoreline. A tiny crest fell over, little bubbles formed and slowly the saltwater made its way to wash away the sand from our feet.
Well, that was my perspective.
Najwa, on the other hand, saw this tsunami-sized killer wave racing towards the continental shelf. It roared past the little humans taken under by its power as the wave swallowed everyone in sight. The wave was foaming at the mouth as it lunged towards us, crashing onto the beachfront and spraying us without mercy with an arctic cold freeze intended to paralyze us to roll us into the ocean.
Najwa went berserk when the icy cold water engulfed her tiny little feet. I mean, she had a look on her face as if it was my fault I thought 10 months old was too young for swimming lessons; what is she supposed to do now!?
I — being a man, or a dad, or someone who lives with reckless abandon — got up to take us further into the unknown. Fear is nothing to fear. I was going to show her the ocean is our friend when it’s not drowning us. I took a few steps towards Africa when Nduku came to the rescue, snatching Najwa who was wailing like a seal lion being attacked by an orca, and they retreated to higher ground.
When I was allowed to join them, Najwa had one more trick up her sleeveless top to show why this was a bad idea. She just started crawling a few weeks ago, but all she knows is hardwood floors, the bathroom carpet and her bouncy. When those tiny grains of sand attacked her tiny little toes, she turned into a siren. Her piercing cry for help stirred the lifeguards to make sure we weren’t drowning the poor child.
Najwa took one step and knew she was sinking in quicksand. She reached up for mommy as if a hand was coming out the ground to pull her under. When I went to grab her, she acted as if I was the hand that tried to pull her under the ocean! Absolutely berserk!
Luckily, with the magical properties of a pacifier and the sand agreeing to only swallow our daughter up to her little ankles, Najwa felt more comfortable with her feet sinking into the planet. Nduku and I had to take turns going to the ocean because one step towards the never-ending pool of saltwater elicited another bloodcurdling cry from Najwa.
On the way back to the car, when there were no signs of the ocean around, Najwa literally fell asleep while I was carrying her [the stroller was too close to the ground?]. That and a few spoons of vanilla ice cream from Archie’s Ice Cream Stand.
I’ve always found something serene about the ocean. Even when surrounded by hundreds of screaming kids, I can hear the peacefulness of nature and can take a mental break from the life issues that nag at me back home. There’s just something about the infiniteness [if that’s a word] of the ocean that humbles you, makes you realize how fortunate you are to experience such a spirit-freeing moment with mother nature.
That is, until your daughter reminds you that peace can be found in a tiny tub of water and a rubber duckie.