Public toilets: freaking out First World Parents of little ones for decades. I was recently in a bathroom of a local restaurant when I heard the all too familiar sounds: A gasp. A shrieking wail of disgust followed by minor hyperventilating. “OH MY GOD! DON’T TOUCH THAT! OR THAT! OR GET TOO CLOSE! YOU. ARE. TOO. CLOSE!” You might think there was a Hazmat team scouring for Ebola, but no, it is merely the curious pre-schooler tracing the outline of the toilet seat, enthralled with the flush handle. He has found that if the toilet paper holder is the shiny metal kind, he can stand there for days and make funny faces reflect back at him. And the more you tell him not to look, not take too long, to do his business and get out, the more he wants to stay a while. Mom, here is a painful truth – public toilets are actually pretty cool things. They are different than the toilets at home, thereby making them new and wonderful. Automatic flushers?! Oh My!
I remember when our first born was about 18 months, and it was summer and I was feeling a little summery confused – were we supposed to make magical family memories by taking beautiful vacations, isn’t that what people did? Particularly since my sweet hubby is a school teacher and has a few extra days off, I tend to feel a weird pressure each summer, like seriously, WE GOTTA MAKE THIS COUNT!! That particular week I was lamenting a trip to Disney World. We had stopped into Walmart for a late night diaper/beer run ( don’t judge, it happens). Our daughter followed me into the bathroom and behold: the automatic flusher. Glorious. It turned out we did not need to smooze with Mickey Mouse, that snarky Walmart toilet was entertainment enough! (We are still planning that family trip to Disney, when we have older children and less debt – employing that ‘everything beautiful in its own time’ concept :))
The point is, public restrooms and indoor plumbing in general are incredibly cool luxuries. While we sit in our multiple square footage abodes in comfy clothes and full bellies, there are children who do not have access to fresh water nor know what an indoor toilet is.
While I trust there are dangerous germs lurking there, and I do not encourage my child to lick the toilet, I want my kids to appreciate them, to marvel at them, to not take them for granted. We are so ridiculously rich to be able to poop inside!
It is about to be summer again, and a few days ago, I’ll admit I was feeling summery confused. This time it was for summer camps. In about a week we were covered with several summer camp options. Our oldest is 6, and yet I realized that we could quickly spend more money in summer camps than we do our mortgage! Apparently it is a booming business. Should we sign her up for math camp? (My hubby is a math teacher, it sounds like a good thing to do.) Latin? Jeopardy Junior training? I do get secretly competitive watching the National Spelling Bee, it can never be too early to teach her to purse her lips, wrinkle her nose and ask for the language of origin. Or, she seems to like soccer, maybe soccer camp?
And then, I am reminded of the toilet. And I see how much our kid has, even on our seemingly humble starter home, and middle class income. And I feel peace with deciding on one week of camp, and swimming lessons, and leaving plenty of unscheduled time for rest, extra trips to the library, cloud gazing, and laughter.
Our kids don’t need more and more, they need us to help them appreciate what they already have. The next time we are at Target and our kids see something they have to have, lets remind them of the toilet. Let’s genuinely take the time to explain that that they don’t precariously squat over a hole in the ground.
And this summer? Simple is okay. Leave a little extra wiggle room in the calendar for exploration and creativity…you never know, it may just be fun to take apart something, really learn how it works.
It may be that this summer is for the crapper -you know, really check how that cool toilet works!