In my opinion, as soon as a woman decides she wants to be a mother everyone is full of opinions: when to get pregnant, how to get pregnant, fertility, adoption, single parenthood. And that’s just conception. After conception there are more opinions: how to give birth, how to be pregnant, nursing, maternity leave, career choices, childcare options. Then, once the children are born, every well-coiffed AARP member in every museum in America has an opinion about their behavior.
For my part, I listened and sometimes doubted my parenting decisions, but mostly I just ignored everybody and did what I had to do to get through the day and keep everyone (including me) from going over the banisters. There was one exception. I listened to the pediatrician.
My son calls his pediatrician Dr. Hotness (not exactly her name, but close). When William was 3, Dr. Hotness told me it was time he was potty trained. I told her, “He isn’t ready.”
Then she gave me her opinion, “Yes, he is.” Dr. Hotness told me I should put him in underwear and he would use the toilet.
So, I put my son in underwear for three days, turning my shower into his own personal bidet and stopping up the ejector pit with Nemo underpants. Just putting this kid in underwear wasn’t working, so I decided to bring in some big guns: donuts.
Day one. I tell him, “Pee in the toilet, you get a donut.”
“William, you want to go use the potty?”
“No, thank you, I don’t want to use the potty.”
“Yes, I think we should, let’s go use the potty.”
He is gasping for air, screaming “no potty, no potty, no potty,” and kicking me, and I am angry at my kid, the doctor and the entire transitional process.
Yet somewhere in the depths of my maternal abyss, I find the strength to cheerfully place William gently on the potty and sweetly remind him, “If you pee, you get a donut.”
“Look Mommy, I’m peeing. Can I have a donut?”
Day two. William tells me, “No thank you, Mom, I would rather pee in my diaper.” I’ve got nothing to come back with. I eat 15 stale munchkins.
Day three. On my knees on the floor of the Children’s Memorial ER bathroom at 5 in the morning, cleaning my son’s feces off the toilet with baby wipes. This humbling moment brought to me by my son’s efforts and a well-intentioned pediatrician. Yuch.
After coming home from the ER, William and I go shopping for humidifiers. I’m tired, my son is on steroids. First stop, before we shop, let’s go use the potty. William marches into his stall declining any assistance. I repeat my offer, “William, are you sure you don’t want me to help you?”“No, thank you, I already fell in.” He is soaking wet, dripping with public toilet water. For the second time since the sun came up, I find myself on my knees in a public bathroom.
Now, I will share this, this is not my first physical encounter with public toilet water. On an outing with my first child, I once managed to ingest public toilet water. But that is an entirely different story.
As toilet water drips on my toe, William tells me, “I am too young to use the potty.”
I look down at him, full of understanding. We are back in diapers. In my opinion, William is right.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.