There are fears, and then there are great fears. I remember as a child having some vivid memories of bugs in the carpet… and no, I’ve researched with my parents, the idea that there actually were. There weren’t. As children we feel things at a stronger level, with much less experience. Things are completely illogical because our undeveloped sense of ‘knowing what to expect’ has only led us to know certain things, like monsters aren’t real (although Aunt Myra is a very close facsimile), food doesn’t turn into worms (alright, my cooking is bad, but…) and owls do not pick up children into the night sky (I just needed you to stay close and you wouldn’t listen).
But never did I imagine that my 5 year old would be scared of the toilet flushing. And I smile as I write. It is quite humorous; I hardly know where to begin. Where does any fear start? Well, sometimes at a Subway on a summer day in the middle of Colorado. A toilet plugs for a moment, and the end of the universe sits in the balance, noises cease,
and one waits to see if the toilet will empty over the universe and bury it in the world turned upside down and sucked threw the backed up toilet upon which you sit. Really, that was just a guess.
My son can’t tell me why he is scared, but I do know that I have given in, completely. I have decided I will flush the toilet for him after poopy time, every single time he needs it… because holding back is just not good for anyone. And he had decided he would no longer poop until his fear subsided. I could not win; I could not convince him otherwise. Therefore, I became the toilet flusher. And I wear this responsibility with great pride and a little snicker. I can’t wait to tell this story over Thanksgiving dinner in 12 years, with his newest girlfriend there. I’ll have wine, and he won’t, so it will be double fun for me and doubly embarrassing for him. My life is just gonna get better and better.
But one day recently, this fear derailed into a skit not even SNL would have thought of. We had to stop in a huge public bathroom, quite possibly the busiest public bathroom of all times. And my son, who likes a leisurely bathroom time, will sit and sing and hang on the toilet for 45 minutes. As long as he’s enjoying himself, I usually don’t mind. In a busy public bathroom, I am a little less excited. WAY less excited. But I whipped out my phone and started texting my husband, while I listened to refrains of ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ and a new song he’d made up, “Don’t Forget The Toaster’. It was quite nice. And people walked by and looked at me and stood in line behind me, and I told them I was waiting on my son. Seriously, can’t they smell him? And when did people start waiting in line so nicely? When did that shit start?
And time went by easily. Who cares. So I spend half an hour in a bathroom… Wait—the toilet flushed. I start to beam and joyfully turn to welcome little Zoom out of the shitterie. And the toilet flushes again and again and again. And a scream runs up from the small boy in the small stall, and a ‘MOM, HELP!” And that wasn’t it, but it would take me an hour to explain what he said next. This small beautiful boy with the most sincere brown eyes exclaims and never stops. He never stops talking, so the words poured from his lips from here until the end of the story. I opened the door to my little half-naked man sitting up and down on the toilet while it automatically flushed, and he screamed and looked like he was being eaten, one toe at a time. I didn’t know whether to take a movie or kindly remind him…
Do I have enough battery to take the movie? This is awesome. Wait, he’s afraid. Come on, mom, try to find the fear and talk him through it.
But you know how hard it is. And I did try. I told him the toilet flushes automatically so if he didn’t quit standing up and sitting down it would continue to flush. He couldn’t hear me over his protestations. So he continued. And I saw my son who hasn’t been near a toilet flushing in three months, try to drag his little butt from the continually flushing toilet over and over. And I continued to try to explain kindly. And the yelling got worse. And the fear took over. And I couldn’t stop it. And I felt helpless. So I yelled. “If you don’t stop right now, we will never get out of here! Stop it, stop it, stop it. Calm down for two seconds and listen to me.” My greatest fear… We would truly never leave this place. We would stand here for the rest of eternity while my son did ridiculous body morphs, butt up and forward, butt down and almost touching the seat, over and over, while I yelled and he screamed, and he never pooped, and the people would keep coming in and out of the bathroom and lining up behind me, and I would grow old and tired. And my voice would start to crack, and my son would not learn how to do advanced math or have his first dance because we would die in here…
See how irrational fears can be?
OK, so eventually he stopped, and I flushed the toilet for him one last time with a tissue on that little gross thing on the back of public toilets. He did finish his business, and we did get out before his next birthday, and my other son and my husband patiently waited until we came out so they could complain to us in person. I felt like laughing out loud. I felt like maybe I was glad neither of our fears came true that day. And I felt like maybe parenting was one of the funniest damn things in the world. And most of the time, when you are done yelling and realize what actually just happened, it’s like an exhilarating cop show, you can’t wait to see what happens next week. And you swear this next time you won’t get riled, but you do because it’s so damn frustrating through the middle. But at the end, you still look back and think, “What the hell have I gotten myself into? It’s either the best days of my life or the downward, bumpy slide to insanity.”
And like I always say, “Really, who can tell the difference?” I need a mother freaking martini!