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

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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