My mother-in-law has a story she’s told to me at least a half dozen times in the past few years.

It’s about how her own mother — a military wife and mom of four kids (all of whom are close in age) — managed to get through raising all of those babies practically by herself. 

On days when life was especially tough — when her toddlers were going after each other constantly and no one seemed particularly happy; when she wanted to scream but had to hold it together — she had a fail-proof solution.

“She’d just put all of us in the bath together, turn the water on and let us have fun together, while she had a few moments of peace,” my mother-in-law has recalled. “She always used to joke that we were the cleanest kids on the block because we had so many baths.”

It’s true — everyone is happy when the kids are in the bath. My husband and I recently have found this to be true with our own two sons, who are nearly 4 and 1.

It doesn’t really matter what the obstacle is — a nasty, rainy day, a couple of stir-crazy kids, some exhausted parents or arguments over which toys are whose. Just turn that bath water on, pour in some bubble bath (extra stressful days call for copious amounts of bubble bath) and voilà: happier kids and happier parents. Some of the most memorable pictures of my kids I’ve taken in the past year have been in the bath.

While I’ve taken to working nights here at The Herald since son No. 2 was born, my husband has been left to watch the boys at night. If you’re not a parent, let me tell you it’s no easy task. Honestly, I think the bedtime routine — including the dinner-eating, bath-taking, story-reading, teeth-brushing, mouth-washing, hair-combing, bathroom-going and back-rubbing tasks that warrant coercion every step of the way — is the toughest time of the day for any parent. And my husband, bless his soul, takes it on single-handedly so I can feel like an adult for a few hours each day. Did I mention our boys get a bath every night, without fail? 

For that, and for many other things, I love and respect my husband more than anything. I hope you all, too, have someone like that in your lives this holiday season.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and here’s to having the cleanest kids on the block.

Meagan Patton-Paulson is Herald Connections Editor. Email her at mpatton@ottawaherald.com