Shower wars with my teenage son

If anyone has figured out how to curb a teenager’s excessive showering, please let me know! I am at my wit’s end. I have tried everything: I have threatened, cajoled, tried to reason, pulled out the monthly water bill as evidence, pleaded for the environment, invested in technology – a shower sand timer that can be turned in five-minute intervals – and even made myself ridiculous (“When I was your age, I only took one weekly bath in our one bathroom shared by five people” – I barely resisted adding “in the same bathwater”).

Nothing has worked. If anything, 12-year old Zax’s showers have gotten even longer.

When I wake up each morning and doze in my bed for a few minutes, I can already hear the water running upstairs. I go through my morning routine, including my own shower, get dressed, and make my way to the kitchen to prepare lunches, and the shower is still on. I have seriously wondered how much the installation of one of those coin boxes I remember from camping in National Parks would cost, where the water turns cold after a set time. I’ve even invoked the old “the doctor said so” routine that worked so well when he was little, and I didn’t even have to lie, since Zax’s excema had lately gotten particularly bad, and “excessive showering” is usually a culprit. It did resonate a little bit in that he has stopped taking showers when he doesn’t “have to wake up,” meaning we are now treated to views of his hair (the battle over which he has definitely won) standing in all directions all weekend long. It seems, though, that this has made the weekday showers even longer.

The only method that has shown some promise is for me to barge in after precisely ten minutes every morning and unleash an angry tirade, then retreat leaving all doors wide open. I don’t enjoy this by any means, as I have to pick two locks and carefully wade through an ocean of clothes and scattered homework (most likely late homework) and two years worth of sports magazines, painfully reminding me of yet another battle I have made a shameful retreat from, plus I am repaid by his not speaking a single word to me on his way out the door. But somehow the idea of no physical barrier between his exposed body and the world at large is compelling enough for Zax to hurry up and turn off the water so that he can lock the door again.

If there is a better way, I’d like to know!

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Sine Thieme

Sine Thieme

Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.

7 Responses

  1. I realize nearly a year has passed since the last entry but I too have a son who showers insecently. The duration can last an hour or more. While it is nice to have a clean son, it is more so irritating to have no hot water for others in the house-hold. It is disrepectful to not care enough about others in the family and all at a time when it is important to watch family expenses and care about water conservation. Maybe, this will better help people understand that it is not so much about the Daily Lengthly shower but more about respect for others.

  2. Thank you so much everyone for your comments. You are absolutely right, it is all a matter of perspective. Those of us with kids who take long showers want them to have shorter ones, and those of us with kids who don’t shower would be happy if they did it at all. We all want the perfect child, even if what we have is probably already pretty good! A very good reminder for me to be less nitpicky, although complaining about something always makes for a good story.

    As an aside, I found the perfect solution the other day in a bush camp, which I’ll be writing about shortly. There, showering consisted of pouring cold water into a “donkey boiler”, waiting for the hot water to come out the other end, taking that bucket to the shower, lowering the bucket affixed to the ceiling, pouring the hot water into it, and hoisting it back up before you could take a shower that lasted precisely 5 minutes. If only our homes were outfitted with donkey boiler showers! However, that might not work for you folks whose kids don’t want to shower in the first place…

  3. Hi,

    I have a 13 year old son. I have constant wars with him … to bath or shower. I swear he stands away from the water. No he does not have a phobia as he is an excellent swimmer and loves his watersports! I buy him all kind of products but they seem to get used by his Dad and his younger brother. He has had the same girlfriend for two years now. Recently though he started off with hand cream then progressed to deodorant and gel, doing his hair for school and now you won’t believe it but two weeks ago he started with sunblock. A week ago he started brushing his teeth even after lunch. I mean morning and evening brushing was a chore but now this! This week I found him putiing a collapsible hair brush in his school bag. Yippe yay I’m ecstatic. What a long road it took us seven years to get here. But now my almost ten year old son who used to be a clean freak does not want to bath. What to do? P.S. I have another son a laatlaimtjie of two. I am scared. Please advise. Please leave your son to shower away. I’d be so glad if mine did that.

  4. i’m sure you have already tried to find out what it is that he is washing away? ‘just’ insecurity, possibly something worse? i honestly don’t want to upset you but i do think it should be mentioned that women who have endured a bodily attack sometimes try to literally cleanse themselves of it by washing excessively.
    here’s wishing it is just a minor fad! good luck.

  5. For now barging in helps. Maybe contract with him if he wants longer uninterrupted showers that he needs to do extra chores. Ie for an extra 5 minutes he needs to do dishes etc. Good luck!!

  6. Liebe Sine, da kann ich mich Conrad nur anschließen. Es ist eine Traumvorstellung, dass mein Sohn länger duscht, als irgendwie nötig. Und wenn ich mal vergesse, ihn am Wochenende abends ans Duschen zu erinnern, kann ich sicher sein, dass es “vergessen” wird. Die Vorstellung, dass mein Sohn längere Zeit ohne Aufforderung duscht, erscheint mir wie das Paradies. Tja so ist es, das was man nicht hat, möchte man haben, auch wenns um Duschen bei Söhnen geht. Eine Mischung aus den beiden Cousins wäre wohl das Ideal. In diesem Sinne alles Liebe


  7. Meine Liebe, Du hast Sorgen…..Wie sich doch die Themen aendern. Bei uns geht es noch darum, dass ueberhaupt geduscht wird.

    Die Münzmethode ist aber auch sehr wirkungsvoll. Habe ich jetzt im Sommer auf den schwedischen Campingplätzen erlitten!

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