Oh, the irony. For the last several years I have gleefully watched as friends and relatives have had children and dealt with the nightmares of early childrearing; no sleeping at night, formula, breastfeeding, buying jars of pulverized fruits and vegetables and maybe (heaven forbid) those jarred meat sticks, diapers, remembering to bring a diaper bag every where you go, and so on and so forth. Don't get me wrong. Kids are cute as babies and toddlers (I didn't even think they were too bad during the "terrible twos"). That's just a lot of work I'm glad was completed years ago that isn't a concern for me anymore.
Learning how to go to the bathroom on one's own is a big transition from toddlerhood to big boy (or girl) hood. It's sort of a shame everyone is different as to when they accomplish being potty trained because we could make a deal out of it like we do when a child is old enough to drive or drink or vote. When you think about it, it's pretty necessary to be able to go to the bathroom before you do any of those other things. I can only imagine what the presidential election would have been like if we had to take Joe the Plumber's capacity to relieve himself into account.
At this point in my post, I need to stop being so light and frivolous. What I'm about to write about was completely unknown to me and I'm a little upset that parents who have come before me made no mention of it. I'm not going to let current or future parents flail away in ignorance like I have. You are being informed and warned.
It turns out that once your child is potty-trained, you're not really done yet. Apparently, there's a second level of potty-training that comes when you're about fourteen. I don't know if this is graduate level potty-training or whether it's like a certification course or what. I just know that my oldest son needed it before he went out in the real world.
The first portion of this advanced potty training class involves the handling and use of a plunger. I went upstairs last night to get my sons ready for bed and found the teenager in the bathroom, plunger in hand, griping about his inability to get the toilet unclogged after clogging it earlier in the evening. The fact that the toilet is clogged is not surprising or a first for him. Everything about my son is big and there's no reason to think that bowel movements are excepted from this. The surprise was that he didn't leave it for me to handle (or even mention it to me). As always, communication is important.
I go into the bathroom in my bare feet and as I approach the toilet, my feet become wet. My concern is not great because he had showered not too far in the past but I asked nonetheless - did the toilet overflow? Thankfully, the answer was no.
He hands me the plunger and it, too, is soaking wet. This concerns me a bit.
"You didn't stick the handle in the toilet, did you?"
Pause and then a tentative "No".
I fix him with my Jedi stare and will the truth out of him. "Honest?"
"YES. I stuck the handle in the toilet. How else am I going to know if it all went down?".
I'm not even going to try and understand how he made that connection (and I then reconfirmed that the water I was standing in was shower water). To me, if the toilet flushes and the water and waste products are sucked into the bottom of the toilet, it all went down. I don't need to be Bill Nye, Science Guy and conduct further experimentation and measurement. I explained that it wasn't a good idea to stick something which your hand (or even more importantly, your father's unknowing hand) is going to be grasping into a pool of feces and urine.
That lesson concluded, he went to bed. I sterilized my hand and returned downstairs. Later on, I made my way to bed. Turned off all the lights, went upstairs, headed to the bathroom, turned on the bathroom light and completely freaked out.
It's a good thing that my own potty skills are in the right hand tail of the potty usage bell curve. If I were in the 70th percentile, say, of toilet skill, I might have lost control of my bowels. Because there, in the pitch black, is my oldest son standing and going to the bathroom. Not exactly what you expect to see when you turn on the lights to go the bathroom yourself.
After patiently explaining that it was a wise idea (especially since I'm the one who cleans the bathroom) to turn on the lights so that the urination target can be identified, aimed at, and hit with precision I sent him on his way. In the aftermath, I thought that perhaps I had been too harsh. I mean, he could have become a member of the undead at some point and I just missed it. This would conceivably have enabled him to see well enough in the pitch black to use the toilet. I doubted that this was the case because history is not rife with tales of vampires and zombies needing to relieve themselves.
I kept my eye on him this morning, just in case. Cereal for breakfast. No brains. So zombie is out. Saw his reflection. Did not combust in the sunlight when he went to school. Nix on the vampire. Kid just hasn't been trained well enough.