Dad I have to go…

January 10, 2009

 

When the kids were younger and we were out on the town, I dreaded hearing the words: “Dad, I have to go to the bathroom”. You may think I’m whining or being unreasonable, but the simple act of taking kids into a public bathroom is far from simple. Think about it- every child is equipped with two grasping devices known as hands- at least until they enter any area where you wish to maintain control of what they touch. At this point six additional arms, with attached grasping devices, shoot from their torso. Now imagine being in a not-so-clean gas station mens room with an unruly three-foot tall octopus whose only desire is to touch every unsanitary surface within reach. If that was the only problem to contend with I could probably learn to cope, but with my boys that piece was only the beginning.

My oldest was a terror in any bathroom- let alone one servicing the public at large. When he was 3 or 4, he would enter a public john, scan the lay of the land and immediately rocket to the first occupied stall within his line of sight. As an aside, why did engineers decide to adopt a bathroom door design that leaves just enough room for young children to pop their heads under? I also wonder what races through the minds of unsuspecting stall occupants when they are suddenly interrupted by an inquisitive, curly headed little boy? This never happened to me when I was a non-father, but I imagine that it’s quite an unpleasant experience.

I didn’t blame my kids- at that point they had yet to master restroom etiquette. My children, probably not unlike yours, weren’t equipped at birth with proper public bathroom decorum or an understanding of social taboos. I’m working with them, but this type of education often takes a back seat to things like eating, speaking and breathing- even at 6 and 8 they only have a rudimentary understanding. So I’ve come to accept a degree of embarrassment every time I walk into a public restroom.

For example, my boys saw nothing wrong with starting up a conversation with a complete stranger about the size, color or consistency of their bowel movements. They also considered it reasonable behavior to imitate flatulence and comment on the foul odors coming from within each stall. Cayden’s favorite statement when he walked into a restroom was (and still is to this day) “Oh Daddy, it smells in here. Uggghhh, yuck, someone is soooooooo stinky”- talk about giving someone a complex. To add insult to injury, while Cayden provided commentary on the funk factor, Mack would typically stand off to the side making fart noises and giggling- the rest room would become unnaturally quiet while this scenario unfolded. These behaviors may not surprise other parents, but if you’re that “20-something” non-parent using the crapper at a Walmart it may unsettle you tremendously.

As my kids matured, our adventures in public bathrooms have evolved. I no longer worry about them sticking their lips to a toilet seat or eating the big blue mint in the urinal, but they still find ways to keep me on my toes. For instance, my boys love handicap stalls- they treat them like mini in-law suites. They’re roomier than the average stall and many come equipped with their own sink- definitely something to be revered and certainly worth fighting for. If we happen upon one in our travels the guys immediately rush in, locking the door behind them as they go. I may not see them again for 20-minutes, and then only after the indignity of bribing them to resurface. There have been times, however, when the stall’s charms were so great that no amount of bribery could pry them loose from its grasp. The conversations when this occurs generally resemble the following:

Dad- ((knock, knock, knock))

Mack- “Whoooo issss itttt” (sing song voice)

Dad- “You know who it is; Open the door and lets get moving”

Mack- “I’m very busy right now whoever you are, could you come back later?”

Dad- “Mack, you know exactly who this. Grab your brother and get out here right now!”

Mack- “Hold on, let me see if Cayden is in” (pause) “Nope, not here. If you like, you can leave your name with his assistant, “Larry Powershields”. (giggle, giggle, snort)

Dad- “I’m about to lose it guys. Get out of there right now!”

Cayden- “Hey Mack, I’m not going out there that guy sounds angry”

Dad- “Quit calling me that guy, you know who this is, now get your butts out here before I pull the door off the hinges!”

When this type of thing happens, I end up spending an inordinate amount of time contemplating how to unhinge a stall door with only the objects in my pocket (e.g. change, lint and a blockbuster receipt) so that I can once more gain control of our outing. Luckily, the guys can read my intentions pretty well and resurface right before I dismantle public property.

They have become so enamored with these over-sized stalls that I actually thought about building one in our backyard and placing it next to our swing set. The only trouble is I would have every kid in the neighborhood lined up to take a ride on Mr. Shane’s toilet train- not something that I want to be remembered for.

The latest trend in my boy’s public bathroom behavior is an unquenchable desire to visit every restaurant restroom that they can- and spend as much quality bonding time as possible while inside. It never fails. We go out for dinner, we get seated, we order our drinks and then the request is levied. Normally, the request comes in three phases. Phase 1- Cayden needs to go but Mack doesn’t. Phase 2- Mack needs to go but Cayden doesn’t. Phase 3- both boys need to go at the same time. All three phases require fatherly supervision. Phase 3 is notoriously the most painful because both boys now have past experience in that particular rest room and have already identified points of interest for discussion. This is extremely problematic now that Mack can read. For example, he wants to call “Sarah” for a play date because the writing on the bathroom wall has identified her as “a good time”. He has also learned some new verbs that cannot be politely explained to an 8-year old without the aid of an anatomically correct doll.

Cayden doesn’t read well yet, but still finds activities to make his visit enjoyable. His latest kick is electronic paper towel dispensers- the ones that require you to pass your hand in front of a sensor. Something about these little bathroom robots has captured his imagination.  He can stand there for hours making them produce yards of paper towels. Every time he starts this drill, images of a barren Brazilian rainforest flash through my brain and I feel like an enemy of our environment. If the rest room is equipped with hot air hand dryers instead of paper towels he engages in an entirely different set of behaviors. When he runs into one of these devices, he positions himself underneath it and presses the button while the hot air beats down on his little blond head. He normally stops about three-seconds before contracting heat stroke. In the meantime, Mack and I are sweating our butts off because Cayden single-handedly raised the rest room temperature to a balmy 108 degrees.

So as you can see, everything you do as a parent can become an adventure- even something as seemingly benign as using a public bathroom. I never thought about these things when Connie was pregnant with Mack. I had no idea that I would one day have to put so much energy and forethought into the basic functions of biology- but as parents that’s what you do on an almost daily basis. Never lose sight of the fact that kids begin a new adventure everyday and those things that we, as adults, have come to view as mundane are ripe with potential fun for the little ones.

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Kelly posted the following on January 31, 2009 at 6:08 pm.

You don’t know me…but I know your type! 🙂 As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I wanted to share with you a post I read earlier today on a friends FaceBook page…one of those “What are you doing now” comments. He wrote…sitting at the dentist while my 10 year old gets his tooth fixed after falling into the urinal at school. Nice…things to look forward to with boys. I have two girls…we have little “trash cans” full of “special” treats in our bathrooms! Be blessed!

admin posted the following on January 31, 2009 at 6:40 pm.

Man the indignity of losing a fight with a urinal, you gotta feel for the little guy. I hope his Dad is helping him come up with a better story- I can only imagine the fun his friends are going to have with him if he tells the truth.

Luckily my boys have managed to avoid serious injury so I must be doing something right.

What kind of special treats do you keep in your bathroom? With boys the only special ltreat that’s needed is disinfectant wipes.


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