Today I committed a cardinal sin of parenting. What’s worse is I got caught.
My son was getting ready for his weekly gym class, which given the weather the last month, is sort of like releasing previously caged animals back into the wild. At first, they’re timid, like they’ve forgotten how to use their legs. They stretch and check that their feet can still bear weight. They look around at the other children, blinking in the bright lights, to see what they are supposed to do next. Of course within a few minutes they’re tearing through the gym, shrieking like banshees, and bouncing off the walls and each other. It’s chaos, but in a safe environment with padding on the walls and floors, like a little toddler insane asylum.
Of course, two minutes before his class is supposed to start my three year old informs me that he needs to pee. Story of my life. So I scoop up the baby, who is currently dragging himself across the floor on his elbows trying in vain to sneak up on another child to steal her sippy cup, and head for the bathroom. With both kids.
About five minutes later we all emerge, the baby upside down in my arms, the three year old with his pants half on and me looking about 15 years older. However, we were all alive, dry, and no one had been peed on. It was a walk of triumph for me. Until I heard the instructor asking my son whether he had washed his hands after using the toilet.
Lie, you little fool! I think to myself. But no. my honest little man looks his teacher straight in the eye and says “No.” in his most nonchalant, why-would-you-even-ask-me-that voice.
Suddenly the entire room was looking at me like he’d just admitted to snorting a line of cocaine in the bathroom…and then not washing his hands.
They wanted some sort of explanation for this egregious and disgusting act of negligence. I turned red, but said nothing. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. I walked slowly over to the industrial sized vat of hand sanitizer on a nearby shelf and applied it liberally to both my hands and his. We were shamed. No one gave my son any high fives today day during class.
Now, I’m as gung-ho about personal hygiene as the next mom, but I also think we need to take a step back and gain a little perspective. Yes of course, in an ideal world my child would wash his hands everytime he used to the restroom and before every meal. He would also say please and thank you at every opportunity, brush his teeth twice a day, and chew with his mouth closed. In that same ideal world I would have showered more frequently than once this week, worn a bra with an underwire and pants without an elastic waistband, and eaten breakfast. But none of these things happened, now did they?
Before you judge me, let me describe to you the scene that occurred in that bathroom.
The three of us ventured into the bathroom together, the three year old being dragged by his hand and the baby trying to climb onto my head as I carried him. Once I locked the door I realized I might have taken on more than I could handle. Obviously, I couldn’t put the baby down on the bathroom floor. Even we, non-hand-washers, have standards. So I swung him back securely onto my hip and turned to the three year old.
My child can form planets out of Play Doh, trace his letters with a marker, pick through his dinner with surgical precision to find anything he doesn’t want to eat, but in that moment he insisted he was incapable of pulling down his pants. Right. So down I went, into a squat I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to recover from, with the baby on my knee, and pulled down his pants with one hand.
“Mommy, you need to take my shoes off too.”
How could I forget? My son has to be completely naked from the waist down before his bladder can function properly. Even socks throw off his entire game. My legs started to go numb, but somehow I managed to get his shoes, socks, pants and underwear off without tipping over. Even more amazingly, I manage to stand back up.
Hard part over, right? Wrong. Next, my observant little man noticed that there was no toilet seat insert in the room. Sitting on the cold, cavernous, toilet al fresco was out of the question.
“Mommy, you sit down first and I’ll sit in your lap.”
I can’t tell you how sorry I am I ever offered that up as an option. Fine. I straddled the toilet, still holding the baby, and motioned for him to come over. He looked at me like I had potatoes growing out of my ears.
“No, Mommy. You have to pull down your pants first.”
I didn’t even have the energy to argue at this point. I pulled down my pants, feeling very grateful for stretchy yoga pants, and waddled backwards until there was enough room in front of me for him to sit on the toilet and not pee all over the floor. My backside was pressed delightfully against the cold tank as I hovered over the toilet bowl, still balancing the baby on my knee, with one arm around the three year old’s waist so he felt secure enough to pee.
It felt like hours passed. My legs were shaking. The baby was pulling the three year old’s hair and trying to turn himself upside down so he could lick the toilet bowl. Finally, he peed. About three drops.
“All done!” He announced proudly and jumped off the toilet.
I was able to pull up the front of his pants, but not the back, by the time he launched himself at the door, opened it, and ran out to join his class. Shakily, I stood up, pulled up my pants, and followed him out.
So, did I wash his hands after he peed, you ask? No, I did not. Am I proud of that fact? No, not really. Is he going to be responsible for spreading the next great plague because of it? Doubtful.
But he did pee in a public restroom, without getting urine on the floor, himself, the baby, me or his clothes, and almost got his pants back on before reentering the public eye. I know plenty of grown men who can’t boast as much. They probably don’t wash their hands either.
Remember, a little perspective goes a long way. So does a little hand sanitizer.