He looked up at me with an air of innocent indignation, as if I should have already understood. I didn’t. In fact, it was the first I had ever heard of anything like this.
“You can go with your clothes on,” I said.
The discussion at hand involved the use of the toilet and whether or not one could or should do so with their clothes removed from their body. My debate was with a slightly chubby four-year old named Milton whose pants, crumpled at his ankles, were about to join his socks and shoes, tie, and Sunday shirt in the pile at the base of the toilet. Milton argued that it was physically impossible to use the toilet while clothed.
We were at church. My brother, Milton’s father, was occupied with Milton’s younger brother, a smaller, fatter, cherubic, and very much in trouble version of Milton. Under these circumstances, the trips to the bathroom were supervised by myself until otherwise directed by the Pooping-One’s mother, or until his father finished dealing with the offending party.
I lost the clothes argument and positioned myself at a sentry post in the hallway. At four years old, Milton had been conducting this operation for almost half a decade–he didn’t need me. Besides, my only job was to make sure he was not kidnapped or flushed down the toilet. I am not the Royal Overseer of the Wiping of the Bottom.
The bathroom is situated about thirty feet from the chapel doors, which were open. The congregation had already heard our argument about nudity during toilet use. I closed the bathroom door behind me. And waited.
What could possibly take such a small child so long to accomplish in a bathroom? Meanwhile, thinking I was still in the room, Milton began interrogating me about where I went to college and why I was still in school and not married. He apparently did not notice, or did not appreciate just how loud the echo in the bathroom made his voice. The entire chapel was privy to his monologue.
I decided to check on him. There possibly has never been a more comfortable-looking person in the history of the world. He sat straddling the back of the toilet, his arms resting on the lid of the tank, enthroned and taking his time. He didn’t even look back at me.
“Dude. Hurry up,” I ordered.
“Uncle Nicolas?” He said, with a very southern little-boy drawl–it sounded like “Nic-o-laay-es” and the syllables bounced off the bathroom walls like tiny cymbals crashing their way to the chapel doors.
“Did you know that Dad poops, too?”
The bathroom echo repeated this loudly and with enthusiasm.
I pondered how that little bit of information would add to or detract from the sermon going on in the chapel. It depended on who the speaker was.
“Yes,” I said, “And now everyone in church knows it.”
I instructed him to zip it up and hurry up and repositioned myself in the hallway. He continued his oration, apparently convinced that I was listening and interested. I might have been, under slightly different circumstances, especially circumstances which didn’t involve church and 150 old ladies tucked neatly into their pews. I do believe that from his toilet bowl, my nephew commanded much more attention than whoever was speaking from the pulpit.
For more information about raising kids see Glad to Be Dad by Tim J. Myers.