Just a few quick errands to run before I pick up my daughter from school. Hit the grocery store, then get gas, because I won't make it to her school without a fill-up. Easy enough, right? Well, these stops are not solo endeavors. I have my son in tow, the boy I affectionately call "The Human Speed Bump." We maneuver through the store as quickly as possible, all thanks to the micro-cart at the store that glides across those well-buffed floors like a scooter. He won't sit in a full-size cart, because "that is for babies," but he'll hold onto the front of the micro-cart, with me pushing from behind. That way, Mommy can make it a game of going really fast, pretending we're going to crash into end-cap displays, all the while thinking, "Whew, were FINALLY making good time in the grocery store!" Even the candy aisle was no match for my swift-moving Chariot of Fire!
Finally, we're at the checkout aisle, making good time. My son and I make a game out of who can win the Check Out Game; us or the clerk. By the way, we won by getting the groceries on the counter faster than she could scan. Oh the pride. My son is back on the Chariot, groceries ready to quickly load into the back of the van, when...
"Mommy, I gotta go potty."
"What? No you don't. Do you Really?"
"What do you have to do? We gotta pick up your sister..."
"I hafta go pee."
Cool. That's an easy one. Except as we approach the bathrooms, I realize that I've already paid for my groceries, and I'm not comfortable leaving a cart (albeit micro) outside unattended.
Split-second mommy-decision time. I park our cart outside the restroom area. I bend down to make eye contact and say to my son, "You remember the urinal rules that you use with Daddy?"
"You never touch them," my son says emphatically. (We have had previous discussions about NOT touching the "round circle" in the urinal. Another post for another day.)
"That's really good remembering!" Whew, so proud, because I just KNOW he REALLY wants to pick that sucker up... "So I want you to go in there, pee in the urinal just like you do when you're with dad, then come right out, 'cuz we gotta go get your sister, and I have Squirt."
"Squirt" is our family's word for anti-bacterial lotion. Our daughter came up with that term years ago. So anyway, for those of you who don't know me, I'm just shy of being a complete neurotic germophobe. Touch a public door handle. Squirt. Handle a menu. Squirt. Use a public restroom. SQUIRT!!!!
Back to the conversation:
"Okay, Mommy." And I watch my young 4-year-old son trod off into the "Mens" Room. Okay, this is my first time letting him go alone into a public restroom, so naturally all kinds of mommythoughts are coursing through my brain.
So I wait.
Check clock on wall.
Count to sixty.
Okay, by now my son should have been able to squeeze out whatever his small little bladder can hold, yet, he's still a no-show. Again, mommythoughts.....
I engage the closest male store employee and say, "Would you mind going in there and telling the four-year-old boy that his mom is waiting for him?"
I get eye-contact, but also a sideways grin, because after I ask that, I realize he was already heading in there to take care of his own personal business.
So I wait.
Okay, now it's approximately 200 Mississippi's, and neither my son nor the store employee have emerged.
Again, mommythoughts, but now mostly leaning toward, well, there must me a problem....
Finally, the store employee shows up, again with the sideways grin, but this time, not making eye contact...
"Everything's okay now. He was trying to....well....he said he had to poop, but he was sitting in the urinal. I picked him up and put him where he should be, so he should be okay now."
I swear I did not realize this could actually happen, but I honestly experienced temporary blindness. A fog encompassed me; I chuckled. I apologized. I overted my eyes in shame. What was I thinking sending a 4-year-old into the Men's Room alone. He said he had to PEE! Why is this so difficult?
After I let all this register, I scanned the store for the wonderfully-helpful employee. I already said "Thank You" and "I'm So Sorry" I don't know how many times, because obviously, I was experiencing deafness, too. Where did this kind gentleman go? Why is my son STILL in the Men's Room 10 minutes later? I can't go in....
Now I start to beat myself up as a parent. Negative self-talk, "What were you thinking allowing him to go in there alone?" "Do you really value $30 of groceries over the well-being of your son?"
Then the fog lifts. I see said helpful employee re-emerge from the Men's Room. In my parental shame, I did not notice that this kind gentleman went back inside to make sure my sweet boy, uhhh...completed the transaction with efficiency.
"He's almost done. He's washing his hands now."
I keep an eagle-eye on the door. We are SO late now picking up my daughter.
I watch as the door gently tugs open, little by little, until my son emerges from the Men's Room.
His hands are wet, smelling faintly of soap, so I choke my germaphobe instinct to baptize him in Purell, smile, and say,
"Let's go get your sister!"