All’s I’m sayin’ is, it’s not like the moment she started peeing directly into the toilet — rather than into the bazillionth, or the bazillion-and-oneth diaper that I fastened onto her — everything was suddenly all peaches and cream. In my haste to schedule a zeppelin to circumnavigate our metropolitan area, emblazoned with the breaking news (“She’s potty trained! She’s potty trained!”), I overlooked one small detail: the Adjustment Period.
She teased us regularly, in the lead-up to this breakthrough, by pronouncing — almost always when we were out and about, and almost always, by uncanny coincidence, when we were at an establishment whose restroom hygine would make old-school pit-toilets look quite savory by comparison — that she thought she was finally ready to Pee on the Toilet. In I’d march with her, a fresh wisp of air playing upon the embers of hope still glowing in my heart. Maybe this time. She was Lucy with the football propped for a place-kick; I was Charlie Brown, tenderly considering the possibility that this time, finally, she won’t yank it away at the last minute (a brief history and an amalgam of Peanuts football gags can be found here).
We would arrive to the restroom, the lil’ monkey and I, and invariably I would scan the place and spot myriad sources of bubonic plague quivering in anticipation of her indiscriminate toddler touch. I would try to rinse the fear from my mind, and get down to the critical work of de-pantsing and de-diapering her before her fit of enthusiasm would wane. Then — because, as I’ve said, invariably the restroom available to us would lack fundamentals like toilet seat covers — I’d establish the Triangle of Safety. The T of S (as I like to call it) consists of three delicately placed strips of toilet paper — see Fig. A, above.* (I think I got this term from a Joan Rivers routine I heard as a young gal, in which she ridiculed the stick-to-it-iveness of this device, alongside legions of folks’ stalwart dedication to it nonetheless.)
Carefully would I lift the lil’ monkey up onto the Triangle of Safety, and balance her there, discreetly glancing to the side when she would announce that she needed privacy. And then? No dice. No nada. Not ever.
Needless to say, re-diapering and re-pantsing her under these conditions was always far more difficult than removing these items. The stand-up diaper change is something I may only finally master in the lil’ peanut’s last month of diaper-wearing. But the post-pee stand-up diaper change was part of the price of admission, and I paid it every time.
Now, let us traipse gaily to the present day, the rosy-fingered dawn of the toilet-peeing era. Let’s us imagine that I am out and about, say, last week, erranding with the lil’ monkey. Let’s say we had just passed a delightful time at one of Baba’s favorite hot spots, the hardware store. Let’s imagine that Baba and daughter whiled away the time there zipping through the aisles (the location of whose contents Baba knows by heart, naturally; that’s a matter of some honor for your average man at a hardware, and therefore of significant honor — if not necessity — for your average mannish lesbian at a hardware store). When I say, “zipping through the aisles,” I want you to picture the lil’ monkey parked in the child seat of one of those pint-sized shopping carts they have at some hardware stores (or at least that they have ’em at our hardware store), only I’m driving it from behind, and she’s at the prow of it, going “Whee! Wheee!” and giggling to herself as we make our rounds.
Picture us now, sated by our hardware store romp and driving back home, when from the jump seat of the truck comes the very worst announcement you can hear from a toddler in the Adjustment Period of her potty training regimen. No, no, not “I have to pee!” No. That’s the second worst announcement you can have barked at the back of your ear. No, I’m talking about “I’M PEEING! I’M PEEING!”
“Jesus H. Christ on a Raft!” I think to myself, resorting to one of the more favored profanities of my dearly departed mother. I deftly manage not to utter this new turn of phrase out loud to my velcro-eared toddler, though. Not just yet. (Baba’s learnt her lesson, part of which, courtesy Att, is the directive to mete out the good cuss words, like annual bonuses for the kids getting older.)
“Jiminy Crickets!” I say to her. “Ho baby! Hang on, hang on!”
“I’M PEEING! I’M PEEING!”
“Hang on! There’s a gas station, right there!”
“I’M PEEING! I’M PEEING!”
“Hang on, you can do it! Come on, come on, just another thirty seconds!” I shoot her what I hope will be an encouraging glance.
She winces bravely.
I swerve into the gas station parking lot, jerk the truck to a stop all akimbo next to the bathrooms. Out I burst from my door, no hearty “Ahoy!” to the guys in the garage. No time! And time’s a-wastin’! I swing open the door to her side, and fumble her seatbelt off and haul her out. With a hitch or two, of course. Such as a foot jamming up underneath a seat lever. Thank the deities she was too mesmerized by the mania of my extraction to notice the pain it might have inflicted upon her.
I sprint to the open bathroom door, holding the limp-with-mesmerization little critter by the armpits. I kick it open with my foot.
You’ll never guess what greets us! A bathroom which, if it were assigned a Homeland Security Threat Advisory level, would be RED RED RED! We’re talking SEVERE risk of pathogenic microbial attack on the soon-to-be exposed cheeks of my wee charge.
“That’s a funny looking toilet, Baba!”
“Yes, well, Buttercup. That’s a special kind of a toilet called a urinal. It’s for people who prefer to pee standing up. Usually boys and men.” I mean it’s not like I’m gonna limit either of my kids’ options. If she wants to pee standing up, god love her. Plenty of gals do it. Some guys prefer to pee sitting down.
“Look, Baba! No door on the stall! That’s funny!”
“What’s that on the wall? What do those words say?”
“Mmm.” No toilet seat cover, of course. Also no toilet paper! Triangle of Safety, foiled!
“Okay Punkin Lamb, we’re gonna have to freestyle it a bit here.” I squat and pull down pants and undies. “Now I’m gonna hoist you over the toilet seat here, and kind of hover you above it.” I prop one forearm underneath her knees and steady her torso with the other hand.
“No, I can sit!” She’s proud of her expanding bathroom agility, which is beginning to include the capacity to perch at the edge of a grown-up-sized toilet without slipping in, ker-splash.
“Um, yes. Well.” I’m still hovering her above the toilet. “It’s pretty kaka-poo poo in here. So how ’bout not in here, not today.” I’m wondering how high a pathogenic microbe can jump.
“I can’t pee, Baba.”
“Can’t pee dangling in the air like this?” Hover hover.
“Can’t pee at all.”
“I peed it all back in the truck.”
“I peed it in the truck Baba.” She looks to be approaching the verge. We visit it daily. She tipples over it probably every other day. It’s juuuuuust okay on the one side, all heck-in-a-hand basket on the other side. Tears, misery, the lot.
“Well, yes. Well then. That happens. Pee happens.” Her lower lip quivers as I tug her undies and pants back up.
“My undies are all wet.”
“Oh, sweetie, yeah. That’ll happen. Figuring out how to hold your pee takes a while.” Internally, I berate myself for not remembering to check in at the hardware store’s bathroom. We peed at the errand before, but as soon as we got inside the hardware store all I could think about was fun fun fun with the shopping cart, and showing off how I knew where everything was. As if she might have noticed. Well she might, one day. Or the lil’ peanut will. All part of the campaign to show that a lesbian dad can be just as capable as a regular one in a great many of the manly arts. Such as hardware store navigation.
Then I think to myself about some of the unsavory side-effects of menopause. “I totally understand about the peeing, sweetie. And I’m sorry we didn’t catch it earlier. Let’s go on home and we can change your pants and play with the fun stuff we got at the hardware store.”
The lower lip slows to a stop. I’ve got her hoisted on my arm now, and we’re on our way back to the truck. I wave to the gas station folks with the free hand.
“Didn’t need it after all!” I call out to them, as if they were dying to know how things turned out.
* Others might know this term’s medical use, as a descriptor for “the area at the lower left sternal border where the pericardium is not covered by lung.” FYI: Not what I’m referring to.