The Texture Of Things


February 16th, 2011

Every so often, I find myself looking at a completely plain experience. I mean, thoroughly plain, like a bubble bath. It is a moment that catches me by surprise, though it shouldn’t. It is a moment that catches me by surprise because in this life, it is not a plain experience. It is nearly exotic.

The experience of bubble suds on your skin can be described as “unexpected touch.”* Unexpected touch is basically any touch or tactile sensation that is a surprise. Splashing water, a spill, a tap on the shoulder from a person you didn’t know was there — these are also unexpected touch.

In a person who is hypersensitive to tactile sensation, unexpected touch can be quite unpleasant. So, bubbles, then, are something to dread rather than something to enjoy.

In order to get to the place we are today, with the tot in a bathtub filled with soapy, bubbly bath water, we had to move through many steps.

It started with the cold turkey approach, right about the age of 1.5 years old or so. I just put the bubbles into the water. The tot, who had been excited by the prospect of a bath, had a complete breakdown. Melting into a puddle, crying, foot-stomping, turning away from the sight of the bubbles breakdown. I was surprised because I thought all kids liked bubble baths. I was frustrated because – Come on! All kids should like bubble baths! But she didn’t.

So that didn’t work.

I bailed on the idea of bubbles in the bath for a long time after that. At some point, however, Food Friend S suggested we blow bubbles outside and work with the tot to get her popping the bubbles. It was summer by then, and the tot around 2 years old, so it seemed like a potentially fun thing to do outside.

The tot was cool with watching bubbles, but she did not want to do them herself. Over time, she began chasing them and stomping them, later popping them by finger touch, to clapping them to pop them. (I want to say that last development was the summer she turned 4. I don’t recall when she finally wanted to blow them herself. Possibly the summer she was 3, but if so, late summer. Maybe the beginning of the summer she turned 4.)

Although blowing bubbles doesn’t seem like it connects to bath bubbles, it is exactly what we needed to transition from the meltdown reaction to today’s bubble bath.

She liked the wand and the bottle, and she liked play stirring, and somehow or another, one time at bath she asked for her empty bubble bottle to play with in the tub. I gave it to her and (eventually) had the idea to blow bubbles *into* her bath water. Bubbles, if you have never blown bubbles outside after the rain, will land on the wet surface and linger.
At that point, it was just a matter of desensitization. Number of bubbles, size of the bubbles, proximity of the bubbles, etc. Then suds made from soapy washcloths and eventually bubble bath.

It sounds systematic, but it was a long process, to be sure.

Funny aside, I am drafting this on my phone while Tater is playing in the tub, and the tot just came in and asked to blow bubbles into his bath. Ha ha! We haven’t done that with him before, maybe even since he was born. I guess bubbles are on the brain around here!

And now, my dear friends, I must go put the tot in the tub, with bubbles, of course.

*The prickly popping and slide-y sensations of bubbles are also light touch, which I’ve written about before, and if I remember later, I’ll link to the post.

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