Sunday, November 20, 2011
When my daughter was small, I wrote articles for the local parenting paper, The Bristol County Baby Journal, and occasional columns for our daily newspaper, The Providence Journal (Providence, RI). Now that little R is entering his pottying stage, I'm reminded of a column I wrote about life after potty training (circa 1995) that I'd like to share with you:
Whew -- my local tour is complete. What a whirlwind of activity for four years. I never thought I would see them all, but I have.
Historical sites? Ivy League schools? Plays at Trinity? No - public restrooms. I'm the mother of a six-year-old daughter whose hobby is to visit public restrooms. Why go at home when you can check out strange bathrooms all over the state?
Today we visited three in under three hours. Must be a world record.
I pretty much expected visiting the restroom at McDonalds, our first stop. But 10 minutes into our browse through Target, after reaching the opposite side of the store, came that familiar whisper: "Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom." Off we trudge and there I wait. She's getting better at this. She likes to chat, ask questions and explain her philosophy of life while she sits. My foot is tapping, eyes rolling, cheeks reddening.
One more quick stop at the drugstore to get toothpaste and toilet paper (how appropriate) before we head home. Halfway up the toothpaste aisle, I hear it again. I'm ready to scream.
I tell her they have no bathroom here, she'll need to wait. We'll be home in minutes. She threatens to do it anyway unless I find her a bathroom. I ask a clerk; he points to the other side of the store. "I told you," she says.
Parents have their patience tested continually, but in this area I have been pushed way beyond my tolerance level. Bathrooms are pretty boring (not to mention the lack of cleanliness issue) if you're the one designated to hold the other person's coat, hat, assorted long necklaces, and a large stuffed leopard named Jasmine. Waiting. And waiting. I'm concerned that the security cameras watching the sink area of the restrooms we visit will think I've lost my mind. To pass the time, I roll my eyes toward the ceiling and shake my head in disbelief.
When she was potty training, strange-bathroom visiting became the rule. I learned about bathrooms in places I never knew had them. All the store clerks had to do was see a toddler jumping in place or crossing her legs and they'd gladly show us the secret hidden restrooms for Employees Only.
At four she lost interest in the excitement of conquering a new restroom. Since turning six, however, she's at it again, but with newly acquired skills.
She's now tall enough to turn the sink on and off; adjust the hot and cold to suit her temperature needs; work the various models of soap dispensers, and reach the handle crank for the paper towels. Or, my personal favorite -- electric hand dryers. Loud, hot, annoying. She always dries twice - doesn't like damp hands.
I smile meekly at the women who efficiently come and go through the restroom door. They think she is so cute, lathering up her hands and gazing into the mirror.
All the while, I'm thinking, "Good, here's her stuff. You wait while I shop."
This column appeared in The Providence Sunday Journal on September 3, 1995.