In an airport ladies room recently I overheard a woman gently chiding her antsy toddler, warning her not to touch anything in their stall. I thought to myself, whoa, been there, sister. But I felt a twinge of shame concerning my own public potty kid management techniques. You know, the ones that usually involve wild gesticulating, random outbursts and profuse sweating. When I heard the woman’s calm soothing tones, effortlessly silly jokes and quiet encouragement of her little one, I had that warm comforting feeling I used to get when Teen Spirit’s kindergarten teacher read to the class on field trips. I thought I might ask for a cookie and drift off into a nap right there on the toilet.But when I snapped myself out of it and got back to business, I noticed that the woman had started repeating the same warning over and over, each time louder and more urgently. “No honey, don’t…touch..that…no I said don’t touch…dirrttyyy dirttyy. No, not on me!” I bet there was some profuse sweating going on, too. Well, now we were in my territory because La Principessa uses her super germ powers to find the most revolting surface in any public bathroom and wipe, roll, submerge or smear her hand with whatever’s living there. It counts for nothing if she can’t display it to me proudly, preferably waiting until I am, ahem, otherwise occupied in the stall. Only then will she rub her hand in a vigorous circular motion around my face. A fecal facial, one might say. The first time she tried that on me, I could have sworn my head rotated 360 degrees but I was yelling so loud I can’t be sure.
Not long ago, we were in a Chipotle rest room when she realized that she could create an arc of water shooting to the opposite wall by flicking her hand under the gushing faucet at just the right angle. I was again rushing to finish what I went in there to do when the spray hit my face. By now, the tile floor was treacherous and she was slipping and sliding towards me, taking a spill between the sink and the toilet. She could reach just far enough to yank me off the seat down with her.
At some point, I’ll see if I can muster the strength to discuss the great Crap-tastrophe of 2010
Years ago, in an attempt to start paring down the excess, we explained to Teen Spirit how he didn’t need to play with baby toys anymore, that he hadn’t touched that plastic phone in over a year, why not give it to other little kids that could enjoy it. We decided to donate it to the local coffee shop which kept a store of such things on hands for kids to pass the time while their parents gassed up on high octane coffee drinks. He nodded solemnly and agreed. We ceremoniously brought a small box to our friends at Hyperion Espresso. And we basked in the rosy glow of our little one’s mature generosity and community spirit. I must admit to feeling smugly content at all that good will I was midwifing. Actually, more smug about my awesome parenting — look him in the eye, don’t talk down to him, quietly explain, he’ll understand and grow as a person. Ahem. I snapped out of that delusion pretty fast. My bubble burst the next time we visited Hyperion and we encountered a sweet little kid playing with “that phone that looks just…like…mine.” Uh oh. He could make out his own name Sharpied on the bottom and lost his mind on the spot. We haven’t thrown out any toys since then.
For awhile in his younger days, Teen Spirit liked to carry around five or six of his very favorite playthings — they were with him at all times tied to a long string. Some of them weren’t proper toys — more like odds and ends, kitchen implements, other little items he found interesting and could add to the growing landscape of toy piles around the house. He would tie a belt or long string or ribbon around each toy, then another toy and another about six inches apart. After some experimentation, he settled on dragging around his Dad’s bathrobe belt that was fastening a whisk, part of a plastic crane, a mini hockey stick, an action figure and a spatula. You could hear him coming a mile away —-clomp scrape clomp scrape clomp. I always felt like Jacob Marley was tracking me down around the house. Teen Spirit eventually tired of tying one on and dragging his treasures behind him. He then started to merely carry his one or two special items. The crane piece became Yellow Thing, but that’s a different story.
Just recently I was gathering up a few little stuffed animals, meant for infants to hug and chew on. And there was Little Cow. Teen Spirit owned about six cows — stuffed, plastic, short, tall —- who all ended up out to pasture in the deep recesses of a closet; all except Little Cow, who was still a free-range toy all these years later. It was a sacrifice but he let La Principessa slobber all over Little Cow when she was a baby.
So Teen Spirit came upon me holding the toy, trying desperately to will myself to add it to the “Donate” pile. I spotted him and put the cow in the box fast. He ran over, ‘Hey, my Little Cow, What are you DOING? I still like this.” and he plopped it on a shelf in his room. “But you’re a freshman in high school. Do you really still want Little Cow?” I asked. We smiled at each other. I turned to leave and still had to wade though piles to get out of the room.My feet were caught up on some dress-up clothes and a Barbie but I was secretly thankful that Little Cow had won a reprieve.