We hope you had fun at our Christmas potty

I spent an hour in the mall over Thanksgiving weekend. That alone would be worthy of pity, but hold the sympathetic tears for a minute; it gets worse. I spent half of that time in the men’s room.

Okay, let the wailing begin.

While on our mall visit, my wife, who is uncannily in tune with such things, noticed something in the way our five-year-old was walking. “Do you have to go potty?” she asked.

“No,” he replied, which meant, “I do, but I’m really into these Christmas ornaments in the Hallmark store right now, so I’m gonna pretend I don’t.”

I led him down the corridor of despair that leads to the mall restrooms. Inside the men’s room, he took off his coat and handed it to me. I thought this unnecessary, but little boys have peculiar peeing habits.

He walked past the urinals toward the stalls. “Oh, it’s one of those?” I moaned.

“Yup. One of those.”

An inspection of the three choices led us to the least disturbing toilet. In my head, I heard my wife’s frantic voice demanding a buffer between her child’s precious behind and the germ-ridden seat. I wiped the seat with toilet paper and laid down one of those paper seat rings with the punch-out center. Having prepared his nest, I left the boy alone with his duty in the stall.

God rest ye merry gentlemen.

Waiting for the patent on my holiday themed seat cover.

I placed myself in the sink area. That seemed like the most innocuous place for a figure lurking in the men’s room, with no legitimate business there, to stand. As people passed me to get to the urinals, I held my son’s coat prominently, testament that I wasn’t camping in the restroom without reason. It would have been more clever to hand out paper towels, but I’d left my tip jar at home.

One gentlemen said hello to me as he passed. I decided to relocate.

I retreated to the stall area. The other stalls were empty, leaving me free to converse through the door without raising a response from the wrong squatter. “Almost done?” I asked.

“Nope. When I do this, I do it slow,” he replied. “I’m not good at doing things fast.”

“Just keep plugging away then.”

I had to warn my wife. I went and stuck my head out the men’s room door.

“What’s taking so long?” she asked.

I held up two fingers.

Her eyes grew wide, like from some sharp, internal pain. “Oh my God! Did you put down toilet paper?”

corner stall

“Oh my God! Did you put down toilet paper?”

I patted myself on the back as I nodded to her.

I returned to the stall door. “Almost done?”

“Not yet.”

I leaned against the wall, holding up my child’s coat of a flag for all to see. People came and went.

And then.

From behind that stainless steel door, came the sound of gentle humming – the melody of his favorite Christmas song: Carol of The Bells.

“Dum de de dum.

Dum de de dum.

Dum de de dum. . .”

It goes to show that even the horrors of a public men’s room can’t rob a child of his Christmas spirit.


The urinal whisperer

In a three-year-old’s world there are a lot of things that can distract from the need to take action when the urge to potty strikes. At home, my son sometimes gets so involved in his play that he needs to be reminded that nature won’t just leave him alone because he can’t find a spare moment to heed its call.

Way back in his caveman days, he didn’t need to worry about taking time out of his busy wild man schedule for potty breaks. Now that he is civilized, having traded the diaper for underwear, life is more complicated.

Accidents at home are one thing, but accidents that happen when the family is out are doubly inconvenient. We quickly learned the habit of making the little man empty his bladder before we head out of the house. We continue to do this as a precaution, though I’m not sure it’s necessary anymore.

It is not necessary because our little guy has developed a most disturbing hobby. He loves to patronize public restrooms. He did not inherit this trait from me.

The boy is fascinated with urinals. While I agree, urinals are amazing pieces of technology, allowing men to get in and get out of the restroom faster than ever in recorded history, my appreciation for them falls far short of fascination.

Some people like to go around to different cafes, making mental notes of which ones have the best lattes or creamiest cheesecakes. Like these folks, my boy is also an amateur critic. He specializes in comparing our community’s urinals.

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp entered this urinal into an art exhibition. If he had been there, my son would have voted it a blue ribbon. Then he would have put it to the test as functional art.

The first criterion that sets a particular urinal apart from the competition is height. He bursts into the restroom scouting out a “little one.”  I’m always relieved when he finds one, because I’m never comfortable with his accuracy when he has to aim high.

Another exciting feature is the self-flushing urinal. I appreciate this advancement also, as I don’t like for him to have to touch anything not absolutely necessary in the public restroom. Whereas flushing occurs to him to be optional at home, he insists on being a good citizen and flushing even the most repulsive receptacles in the public arena.

While I try to be patient with the boy’s desire to chart all the public restrooms in town, it really drives me up the wall in restaurants. He usually waits until our food comes before announcing that he has to go. In the olden days he could go with Mommy sometimes, but now he’s getting big for that, and he’s also noted a disturbing lack of urinals in the bathrooms Mommy frequents.

If you asked my son to read this sign, he would tell you it says, “There are only boring toilets in here. Go to the other bathroom.” Image via Wikipedia

Instead of eating our food before it gets cold, we are off to the men’s room. Hopefully, there is no novelty in this one to catch hold of his imagination and derail him from focusing on the task at hand. Regardless, there are a lot of steps to a successful toddler trip to the bathroom. These steps take time.

Time-consuming procedures are bad enough in a clean, comfortable bathroom, which some restaurant bathrooms are certainly not. I hover around him, making every effort to slap his hands away from anything that is not soap or water. Even so, I usually emerge with a waning appetite. The cold food that is now waiting for me doesn’t do much to help.

It may be that urinals are something that are helping the boy establish his gender identity. I’m no psychologist, so they may just be something that allow the kid to pee at a wall. That’s a good reason to like them too, I suppose. Either way, I can’t wait until he can hold it until after dinner.