As a general rule, parents need to supply their kids only 5 basic things: food, clothing, shelter, lots of love, and quick access to the potty. Most days this isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The middle-aged clerk at the outlet store today clearly has not brought her best game. She alternates weary, worn-out glances at my wife with long, confounded gazes at her cash register. She has less enthusiasm for her job than kids a third her age. She hopes that if she stares long enough at nobody, we will decide against making this complex return transaction until break time. Or a devastating hurricane will strike.
“Daddy, I have to pee,” my three-year-old daughter urges. Looking down, Gabriela is in a catcher’s squat with a vice-grip on her own crotch. Due to her parents’ historic inability to provide timely outlets in these situations, Gabby’s ability to “hold it” has reached Olympian levels. But not all Olympians win the gold. Accidents happen. Sometimes the gold wins.
My wife and I exchange inaudible mouth movements, me from the back of the ever-growing line, her from an exasperated front. I learn nothing, except that mouthing from the back of a 10-deep line makes you look stupid. So I maneuver our Ticonderoga of strollers to the front of the line to get an update, but more to flash a dirty look at the clerk, who is involved in a stalemate against a price tag and doesn’t notice.
I learn now that this was a second notice, the first coming 7 minutes ago when my wife first arrived at the check-out line and gave Gabby the standard, “Just a minute.” The clock is ticking. The pee is coming. The clerk is dawdling. The Dad is freaking.
“This sounds like a job for SuperDad,” the deep movie voice inside my head says.
Unfortunately, SuperDad left town the night I almost treated some minor teething discomfort with extra-strength Anbesol.
“This sounds like a job for PassableDad,” the voice sheepishly self-corrects.
There’s a bathroom just 4 doors down. We’re on our way. We got this.
“The other way.”
Right. We reverse field and head the other way.
“Would you like to try a cookie?”
Crap! They’re giving away free cookie samples at the ice cream place 2 doors down. (And why wouldn’t they, really?) SuperDad would have literally flown right by the cookies and into the restroom. But SuperDad also wears a cape. PassableDad wears XL long-sleeve t-shirts to hide his man boobs.
“Sure, we’ll have one,” PassableDad insists, and Gabby fumbles her first attempt to grab a cookie. “That one’s for the birdies.” Yes, dear. The clock has to be near zero. The red numbers are counting down. Do you hear that beeping? We have to move!
We’re in the men’s room. We bypassed an apparent Family Bathroom to get there. (“There was a family bathroom?” I’d ask my wife 6 hours later.) We enter an open stall. We’re in! But we haven’t won yet.
In front of us sits the Lincoln Continental of toilets. Imposing. Unwieldy. Gabby and her friends could have a play date on it. It’s also armed with the single most useless product enhancement my generation has given the world. Autoflush.
WHHHOOOOOOOOSSSSSHHHHHHH,” warns the overzealous toilet. “One false move and I’ll drown you both in a tidal wave of Gabby’s…”
We haven’t even done anything yet. Stop flushing, oh vile toilet!
“Daddy, I don’t like big potties. I don’t like them! No!” Gabby backs away like she’s encountered a wild jackal. I don’t blame her.
“It’ll be ok, we just have to sneak up on it,” I reassure everybody in the stall. And we do just that, gently setting Gabby on the only possible square inch where she can meet the mark without submerging herself. “Now, pee without moving.”
Gabby slowly, delicately dismounts and after we get her put together we lightly backpedal out so we don’t re-awaken this hideous beast.
We wash hands and the dryer greets us accordingly: “Get away from me or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll bllllllow you back in that stall.”
Goodness. Fine. We’ll go with wet hands. In the family bathroom I guess Elmo hands you a towel. Next time.
It’s over! We beat Idiot Store Clerk, minimized the Cookie Girl distraction , and ultimately we took down the final boss, the Toilet Menace. Somewhere SuperDad indifferently files his nails. But PassableDad rejoices.! Clean pants are here to stay.