irst off let me state for the record that I am aware of the fact that “potty” has taken up a larger than normal percentage of the Dorkdaddy bandwidth of late. But let’s face it – this is a blog about parenting. I have a 3-year-old. “Potty” is a very large part of our life. So there it is.
Today was my son’s 3rd birthday. (Happy birthday, buddy. You ROCK) The big birthday party is this weekend, but to celebrate as a family we went out to dinner at his favorite restaurant. Naturally, just before the meals come he announces to the entire restaurant “I have to go pee pee!”. Without missing a beat my wife says to him “O.K. Daddy will take you to the potty”. No discussion. No silent, secret communication between parents. In no uncertain terms she was telling me that she just didn’t want to deal with it this time, and that I’d better step up if I knew what was good for me. Fine, I get it. She deals with the potties 999/1000 times during the day. It was my turn. So with grim determination I dutifully trotted my little 3-year-old off to the men’s room.
Now I will be the first to concede that in the vast majority of cases, women have it figured out WAY better than men. But just in case any of you women harbor the notion that taking your child to the potty in a ladies’ room is essentially the same experience as taking them to potty in a men’s room, I’m here to tell you, you are DEAD WRONG.
Here’s the cold hard fact of nature: women civilize men. Without you ladies I am convinced we would all be running around in the streets like a bunch of feral animals. There are very few bastions of 100% pure manhood, untouched by a woman’s influence in the western world. But any such environment quickly degenerates into what can only be described as a festering cesspool. The men’s room is just such an environment. I don’t know why it’s like this. Maybe it’s because all the peeing on wall-mounted urinals reminds our limbic-system reptile-brains of marking our territory. Maybe it’s because it’s the only place in the world where we don’t have a woman telling us what to do and how to do it, so we rebel in the extreme. The cause is irrelevant. The salient point to this blog (and the point that you ladies are critically missing because you don’t live in our world) is this:
THE MEN’S ROOM IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE PLACE FOR SMALL CHILDREN
The first thing you need to understand is that even if it was possible to get in and out of there without touching anything, you still can’t come out anywhere near as clean as you would from a ladies’ room for one simple reason: the very air in a men’s room is utterly contaminated. Once you walk in there, you’re infected, from the inside of your lungs to the fibers in your clothes. No amount of hand washing can overcome it. What’s really needed is the sort of decontamination you see in the movies where the hero walks into a hermetically sealed plastic bubble room, strips his hazmat suit off down to his undies, raises his hands over his head like someone’s pointing a gun at him and slowly turns in a circle while jets of steam cover him from head to toe. My wife always carries a bottle of hand-sanitizer in her purse. Unless that bottle holds enough gel to slather your entire body, it ain’t gonna cut it.
So my boy and I walk into the men’s room and I know we’ve already lost the sterility battle. Oh well, best to just finish what we started. We manage to get act 1 complete at the stand-up urinal without touching anything. But my guy is still used to sitting on the toilet, so the finer subtleties of stand-up technique have yet to be properly developed. He winds up dribbling a bit down his leg, a bit on my hands, a bit on my pants and who knows where else. It’s not like I’m going to give the kid a bath or dry-clean my clothes in the men’s room sink, so I guess he’s just going to have to go through the night with pee on his leg.
Just when we finish act 1 my son announces to me “Daddy, I need to go poo poo”. I get it. A successful bathroom experience for him is like conquering a challenge. He’s still proud of the fact that he can do it like a big boy, so he wants to go for act 2. I suppress my horror and we move from the urinal to the stall. The first thing we notice is that the person who was there before us left his calling card – if you know what I mean. I use my foot to flush before I let my son get within 3 feet. As I prepare the throne for my little prince he (unbeknownst to me) removes the relevant articles of clothing, including his shoes. So now his clothes are sitting on the nasty-ass ground immediately surrounding the uncared-for toilet and even worse, he’s walking on that nastiness with his bare feet.
We read somewhere that it’s easier to potty-train a boy if you start out sitting on the toilet facing the wall. That’s all well and good at home in a controlled environment, but it’s an extreme strategic error in public bathrooms. Naturally my son refuses to use the toilet any other way, so he sits facing the wall where it’s absolutely impossible to keep his hands from touching the backsplash from the dozens of people who came before him. I’m so horrified by the entire experience that I barely register the chuckles coming from the urinal we just finished using as my son gives the play-by-play of the entire act 2 experience to everyone in the room.
Once he’s done my efforts are devoted to getting him dressed (and in shoes) again. While I’m working at it I hear him say “Uh oh. Someone was naughty. They colored on the wall. That’s permanent”. Naturally he saw the graffiti some classy, reptile-brained, feral animal left for everyone to see. “What’s that, Daddy?” my son asked, pointing to a crude rendering of what Austin Powers would describe as “sticks and berries”. I managed to dodge the question as we wrapped things up.
We wash from the elbows down at a sink I’m not convinced is any more sanitary than the stall we just left, and we exit the bathroom, dripping hands in the air, back to the door like freshly scrubbed-in surgeons entering an O.R. We get back to our table and my son announces to the entire room “I did it! I made pee pee and poo poo!” The people at the table next to us don’t seem impressed. As I sit down at the table all I can think about is the fact that every square inch of my body is covered in unimaginably disgusting nastiness. Naturally the waitress arrives just at that moment and puts my dinner down in front of me as if I didn’t leave my appetite at the door of that men’s room the moment I entered.
Ladies, the scene I just described is not an isolated incident. As far as men’s rooms go, it is more the norm than anything else. Why in the heck would you expose your child to that if you had any alternative? When they are old enough to know the difference sure, send your little boys to the proper bathroom. But until then, keep your sweet, innocent, pure little boys as far away from a public men’s room as possible.
In any case, happy birthday buddy.
This has been a public service announcement.
Update 11/29/11 — A friend of mine passed along this link to another blog that articulates the challenges for both boys AND girls in just the right way. If you enjoyed this post, you must go see it.