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Potty Problems

I had a truly fantastic time on our
vacation last week, and was loathe to come home for many reasons.
But I can say that on one front, I breathed a sigh of relief when
we walked back through our own door –

The bathroom front.

Let’s start with Cora.

For some inexplicable reason, Cora chose
to potty train during our drive up to Colorado. She’s been
pooping in the potty pretty exclusively, but will only pee in it
when it’s horribly convenient, and so uses diapers pretty
regularly. I know that if I simply forced the issue and let her run
nekked for a week it’d fix itself, but I’m simply too

But during our 14-hour drive, Cora refused to do her business
anywhere but in a bathroom. She was pretty good about it, never
requesting an extra stop for her, but the hassle of taking two
small children into the bathroom stall with you is exponentially
increased when one of them is wearing a diaper and there’s
nowhere to lie down. I’d not bothered to bring pull-ups, so
Cora had to stand spread-eagled while I worked on getting her
diaper back on. And you know how big and comfy those stalls are.
There I am, with Cora cheerfully putting her hands EVERYWHERE, and
a line of a dozen women out the door, trying to hold my breath and
not think of just. How. Gross. This. Is.

Cora stuck with the potty most of the week, and I finally realized
it’s because she didn’t want to sit in a wet diaper.
Which made me joke to my husband that we’re going to have to
spend a week driving back and forth across the country in order to
truly potty train her. But for the whole week, she’d march in
there with me, investigate the stall – doing everything short
of licking the nasty seats – and take her sweet time. To top
it all off, she claimed she “couldn’t go” if she
had any clothes on her bottom half, which meant she had to remove
shoes and shorts as well, so she’d be standing barefoot on
those nasty floors while I reattached the diaper. Good times.

Then there was Maddie.

We all know Maddie’s got, um, issues with potties. It took
forever for her to poop in the potty because of her control issues,
and her preference is still to pee maybe twice a day at the most.
My girl would rather hold it than sit on a seat of dubious origin.

Well, when you’re at 14,000 feet above sea level, there
aren’t a lot of options. Maddie met her first port-a-john,
and the meeting did not go well. We ended up in several national
parks with the pseudo-bathrooms – they look like a regular
toilet, but are just slightly larger than usual and are simply a
hole dug out of the ground. In other words, an outhouse. Maddie
shied away from those and flatly refused, ending in one accident on
the floor just as we reached our rental house.

Not every bathroom was an outhouse, of course, but that’s not
Maddie’s only concern. First there’s the
“privacy, please” that she insists upon, which simply
isn’t always an option. Maddie’s very proud of her
ability to take off her own pants and tend to herself, but stepping
out of the stall sometimes earns me the evil eye when people
realize I’m not leaving, I’m just hanging around. So
many times, Cora and I would have to turn around and obediently
“stare at something else!” while Maddie did her

This, though, was nothing compared to Maddie’s ongoing
argument with the electric eyes in many bathrooms. For whatever
reason, Maddie hates the automatic flush toilets; I think
she’s had a couple times when they’ve started flushing
before she’s off, and there’s some half-formed fear
she’ll be flushed down with it. Maddie also hates the
loudness of most automatic flushes and will avoid them at all

Sometimes, though, there’s just not an option and not another
bathroom within several hundred miles, and it’s electric eye
or nothing. At a time like this, it’s my job to cover up the
infrared sensor and keep it from “seeing” Maddie while
she sits on the potty. Yes, I have to put my hand over the
“eye” – the germ-infested eye right above the
toilet, right in the spray radius – the whole time Maddie is
undressing, sitting, peeing, wiping, and re-dressing.

While not looking, of course.

Occasionally I’ll also have to hold a broken door shut, so
I’m stretched across the entire stall, one hand on the back
wall, the opposite foot in a frozen karate-kick to keep the door
shut, my other hand trying to hold onto Cora and keep her from
picking at the dried crusted stuff on the back of the toilet.

While not looking, of course.

And during this entire Keystone Kop-like caper, Maddie carries on a
continuous, fretful dialog with me to make sure the eye is staying
covered. Which is how we found ourselves at a hotel in Amarillo,
Texas, sharing a bathroom with a wedding reception while firing
through a truly awful script. The entire bridal party was treated
to the following scene:

The sound of a foot kicking against a bathroom stall. If you
peer under the door, you see two small jeans-clad legs, a pair of
petite legs with the jeans around the ankles, and only one adult
foot. (Remember, the other foot’s on the stall door.)

From within the stall:

“Mommy, are you covering the eye?”

“Yes, Maddie I am covering the eye.”

“Because I think I can see some of the red peeking through,
and I don’t want to pull down my underpants until it’s

“Maddie, the eye is covered. The toilet cannot see you, I

The sound of snickers from the sink area.

“Oh-kay . . .”

A brief moment of silence.

“Are you still covering the eye?”

“Yes, Maddie, I am still covering the eye.”

“So it can’t see me?”

“No, honey, it can’t see you. Dad gum it, Cora, get up
off the floor! You do NOT crawl under the wall to another stall!
Get back here!”

“Mommy, NO! Don’t move away from the eye!”

“I’m not honey, I promise – Cora, you’re
going to lose your dessert if you don’t get back –
thank you. Now stay.”

“Is it still covered, Mommy?”

“Yes, it is. I promise. Just go pee.”

“Are you looking?”

“No, honey, I’m not looking.”

“Your eyes are open!”

“Maddie, my eyes are open to watch Cora – Cora, stand
UP and do NOT eat that fuzz on the wall! Maddie, I’m not
looking at you, I promise.”

“Oh-kay . . .”

Moment of silence. Well, mostly silence and some tinkling.

“Is the eye still covered? Can I stand up?”

“Yes, honey, you can stand – Cora, do NOT touch the
toilet seat! That does it – hold my hand and do NOT let go
until we’re out of here.”

“Mommy, I can’t fasten my jeans by myself. Can you help

“Well, honey, I’ve got one hand covering the eye, one
hand holding Cora, and a foot on the door. I’m sorry, I just
don’t see how that’s possible unless I try to remove my
hand from the eye and cover the eye with my hiney while I fasten
your jeans.”


“Honey, I’m going to have to – we can’t
stay in here all night.”

“I’ll just go out of the stall with my pants unfastened
and you let go as soon as I’m out, ok?”

Sounds of scurrying. The stall door opens, and a five-year-old
girl runs out, hands over her ears, as you hear the sound of the
toilet flushing. A mother comes out holding a three-year-old with a
cheeky, unrepentant grin. A button is fastened. Hands are washed,
while the bridal party stands frozen and silent in front of the

Yes, indeed, it’s good to be back. There’s no potty
like home.


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