With little boys, there are two sources of parental concern: when they avoid visiting the bathroom for an unusually long time and when they stay in the bathroom for an unusually long time.
I have one son who enjoys life so much that he hates to interrupt anything he is doing to go to the bathroom. He’ll cross his legs, jump up and down, stand on his head and do just about anything to squeeze in a few more precious moments of playtime before sprinting down the hallway to the potty. This method works okay at home for the most part, unless of course our one bathroom is already in use when his leg-crossing and kangaroo-hopping tactics cease to be effective and he finally admits to himself that he has to go.
But pushing the human bladder to the limits is decidedly more dangerous when we are in the car or on the street. In Central Asia, there are few public toilets and none of them are free. That means I waste precious seconds fishing the exact change out of my pocket to pay the babushka guarding the restroom while my son dances, prances and kangaroo hops next to me. Let me tell you, those precious moments have been costly. Of course, one advantage of Central Asia is the fact that people (particularly children) make much freer use of public areas because, well, there just aren’t any potties nearby. Unfortunately, my son has learned that anywhere on the street is a potential potty spot, thus reinforcing his bad habit of waiting until the last possible millisecond before alerting me to his bodily needs. I don’t know what we’ll do when we go to another country where people are more uptight how their streets and public places are treated.
A while ago, we were at a mall. My wife made a harmless request: a few moments of shopping by herself. So I let her disappear into a department store while I strolled around with the three boys. Things were going fine until–you guessed it–one had to go potty. And, of course, it was an emergency. I could have phoned my wife, but there are two people in every marriage–one who answers their phone and one who doesn’t. My wife is the latter. Besides, calling would have wasted precious time, and time was something I didn’t have. So we raced for the restroom–me, three boys and a stroller.
I honestly considered leaving the baby in the stroller outside the restroom, but I quickly came to my senses and pulled him out as quickly as possible. Theoretically, my son is old enough to use the toilet by himself. But boy number two decided he wanted to go potty too; plus the stall I picked had one of those annoying seats that won’t stay up unless you hold it. So all four of us crammed in. I held the baby, propped up the seat and helped with buttons and stuck zippers all the while yelling at them not to touch the toilet. Since we had all of about two square feet to share between the four of us and the plumbing, some touching was inevitable.
It was one of those times when I just had to set my pride aside and get us all in and out of the restroom as bacteria free as possible. It wasn’t pretty, but we emerged relatively unscathed to an awaiting stroller (thank God) and found my wife who was blissfully unaware of our potty plight.
Besides the kangaroo-hop last-second madness, the other equally dangerous danger is when a boy locks himself in the bathroom for an unsettlingly long period of time. When he emerged, I noticed something in the sink and went in to investigate. “I cleaned up after myself,” he informed me. “I see,” I said as I surveyed the damage. I’ll spare you the details, but the clean up effort had effectively spread the mess around the bathroom. I’ve been working on being slow to get angry (see James 1) and here was a perfect opportunity to put that into practice as I grabbed the bottle of bleach. “Don’t move,” I growled, as he started to track the mess down the hall.
I realize this is just a phase of life we are in and “this too shall pass.” I’ve even been told that boys get easier as they get older. We will just have to wait and see if that is true in our case. In the meantime, I’m staying on the lookout for the kangaroo hop. Pass the bleach.