Going to the potty is a huge deal to toddlers and, for some odd reason, my boys find it especially thrilling when they get to do it in a public restroom. We took my four-year-old to a monster truck rally and he nearly wet himself when he saw one of those large, stainless steel urinals that have everyone peeing in this open bucket that looks like a long trough.
One of the biggest downsides of having three boys is that I always have to be the one to take them into the public restrooms. Let me tell you—it’s no picnic. At a wedding a couple summers ago, when I stood up from the dinner table with the intention of heading to the men’s room, I was interrupted by an abrupt cough. Now, after living with my wife for several years, I have come to know her coughs quite well. This one was not an I-have-an-obstruction-in-my-throat kind of cough. It was more of an I’m-about-to-ask-you-to-do-something-you-won’t-want-to-do kind of cough, usually reserved for the fourth quarter of a Seahawk’s game. I should have listened to my gut and pretended not to hear, should have made a break for it, hurdling chairs, knocking over children if it came to that, and ploughing through the window and into the lake where the bloodhounds might have a harder time sniffing me out.
Only I didn’t do that. In fact, I did the worst thing possible. I made eye contact with her.
“Your toddler should probably try to go potty, too,” she said with a wicked gleam in her eye that seemed to say, this is what you get for not giving me a girl, you selfish jerk.
I sighed and took the kid’s little hand in mine. I led him through a crowd of wedding guests who were camping by the open bar, laughing, sharing stories and generally enjoying their lives because they didn’t’ have a little one to escort to the bathroom. I muttered an inaudible curse upon each of them before we finally reached the restroom.
It was packed to the nines, which is a bad thing when you have a toddler who needs to make wee. Fortunately for us, he didn’t’ seem to be in too much of a rush, so waiting in the line wasn’t as bad as it could have been. When it was finally our turn, we opted for a stall over a urinal—the larger, handicap stall to take advantage of the extra space, as things can sometimes get messy when a toddler tries to use the potty. Admirably, though, he tended to his business without making a mess, and proceeded to clap his hands at this feat.
“Good job,” I say, giving him a smile and a pat on the head. He flushed the toilet, because it is imperative that he gets to do so.
Next it was my turn.
I’ll spare you the details; suffice to say that, being an experienced potty-goer means nothing when you have a toddler in the stall with you. It can be like trying to swat an elephant with a fly swatter: either he’s not going to notice that you’re there at all, or it’s not going to end well for you.
When you’re alone in a public bathroom stall with a toddler, it can be a survival situation with two-thirds of your energy focused on making sure he doesn’t open the stall door, and the other third going into keeping him from unraveling all the toilet paper.
Two-year-old: What’s that, Daddy?
Me: Toilet paper. Don’t touch.
(Six second pause as he is distracted by a bug)
Two-year-old, upon noticing the toilet paper dispenser…seemingly for the first time in his entire life: Oooh, what’s THAT, Daddy?
Me: (Face to palm, and then a sudden gasp as I knock his hand away from the stall door lock)
Now, remember how I said that going potty is a huge deal to toddlers? Not only is it a huge deal when they go, it’s also a deal when anyone of any age goes. So when I successfully made my first offering to the porcelain throne, my two-year-old made certain to celebrate my accomplishment…
…with the bathroom still fully packed with wedding guests.
Two-year-old: GREAT JOB, Daddy! You went poo-poo! That’s AMAZING! *emphatic clapping*
Needless to say, there was a chorus of laughter, but this didn’t dissuade my two-year-old from making a public request for others in the room to encourage me just as he had done.
Two-year-old: “Tell him he did a good job, guys! Guys…tell him!” (That’s what we get for telling him to encourage his friends when they’re trying something new)
This was the day my final ounce of pride died off like a key character in a George R.R. Martin novel–with lots and lots of gasping and torture. Mind you, I still made darn sure to prevent the two-year-old from opening that freakin’ stall door, and you can bet that we stayed in there for a good forty-five minutes to ensure the last of our bathroom audience had left the room…and maybe the state.
Meanwhile, my son’s attention was back on the bug, none the wiser to the horror he had just put me through. I can’t wait until his first slumber party—I have some payback ideas in mind.