Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bathroom Nazi

Ever react to something one of your children did and then wonder if maybe you went a little overboard?

I do. All the time.

This morning I may have crossed a boundary somewhere. But first you'll need a little background to understand the years leading up to my hysteria.

When we moved into our current situation, we first did what we always do: ripped everything apart and put it back together. We remodeled every room except for one -- the master bathroom. (and to clarify, we never completed the remodel on the main bath, either...which is why I refuse to move into the D Street house until its done-done.) The master bath was unfortunately unusable by my standards. Its a safety hazard. The wall-mounted sink is barely hanging on by a bolt or two, the grout is missing in most of the shower, and the shower fixtures themselves are not in working order. Cracked tile on the floor, no working get the picture. Had I not been 9 months pregnant at the time, I would have totally gone in there and fixed it myself and probably wouldn't have had to spend more than $500 to do so, but that just wasn't on my agenda at the time. So it became a temporary storage closet instead, and to this day is a door that remains closed.

What that means is that our family shares one bathroom. In the big scheme of things, I realize this is not a big deal. We're lucky to have a bathroom at all, right? I do tell myself that, I do, but sometimes when I'm running out the door to meet with a client only to discover my dry-clean slacks are laced with sparkly children's' toothpaste, that gratitude escapes me. My bathtub is full of Happy Meal toys, my makeup is frequently used as finger paint, and my feminine hygiene products have been known to double as torpedoes in Star Wars battles. Now that we're in the beginning stages of potty-training Sam, the family bathroom has become an even more cramped, almost frantic environment. Every time I see one those home-improvement shows where they're making a "serene, spa-like bathroom," I snort and change the channel.

When Jonah goes to the bathroom, we expect him to be gone for at least 15 minutes. Like many little boys his age, a trip to the bathroom means a full-scale retreat into his imagination. He sings, he tries out new accents and dialects, he tells stories, and makes animal noises. When the bathroom FAN is switched on, however, its a completely different story. Not only will that 15 minutes be extended to at least 30, we also know its in our best interests (and necessary for our overall general health) to stay away until the fumes subside. This isn't big deal when no one else needs to use the bathroom (like I'm going to complain that he's occupied for a half hour!), but that's not always the case.

This morning the dreaded bathroom fan was switched on as I was getting ready for the day and Sam was playing in the bathtub. I quickly warned him to be fast and to be cognizant of the fact that there were two other people using the bathroom at the time. Do your business and flush. He assured me he would, but 10 seconds into the task, he was obviously fighting a Pokemon in a jungle somewhere in his mind. Every couple minutes I would tell him to hurry up, and when I finally pulled the mascara wand away from my eye, I glanced over to see him getting ready to use a compacted wad of toilet paper the size of a softball. I cannot tell you how many conversations/tutorials/Family Night lessons we have had on the proper usage of toilet paper. Two squares, I say. TWO SQUARES! If you need more, fine, but only in two square increments! Forget the fact that poor trees are giving their lives so you can clean your behind -- I pay for that stuff! So I march over in a huff and start separating his immense handful of toilet paper into two-square sections. When I'm done, there is a pile of 11 pieces. He was going to use 23 squares of toilet paper for one swipe! I gave him the most serious "I'm-your-mother-and-I-will-be-heard" look I could (I think I even pointed a finger to make sure he knew I meant business) and told him to finish and flush. Now.

A few minutes later I walked back in to see him getting ready to pull more paper off the roll.

"But MOM! I'm not done!"

-- Okay. In all honesty, I think I'm to blame here. In an effort to prevent the "skid marks" I've witnessed in some of my nephew's underpants, I think I may have told him at one point that if he were to ever leave anything behind after going #2, he would get a terrible, horrible rash and would be in dire pain and agony. My bad. --

"Yes you are. You are done. You have used more toilet paper than a grown man. There is no reason to -- JONAH!"

I had glanced into the toilet and saw that water could no longer be seen. There was so much toilet paper in that bowl, it was inches away from actually touching his little hiney. Had this been the first time this had ever happened, I may have handled the situation better, but as it were, I had become an expert in the use of a plunger long ago. Not a skill set I ever thought I'd need, but one I use at least every other week because of this little boy and his toilet paper habit. And I'm so over it.

So we flushed. And as you may have guessed, it didn't go down. Suddenly, I remembered one of the empty threats I had issued a few weeks ago -- I told him that the next time he clogged the toilet, I was not going to trek to the garage to retrieve the plunger, I was going to make him reach into the toilet and pull the toilet paper (etc.) out. With his hands.

And that's what I did.

I remember catching the tail-end of an Oprah episode a year or so ago where they were doing silly mom-confessions and one mother said something to the effect of, "I think the best way to discipline is for your kid to think that you're just a little bit crazy. You've got to make them think that this might be the moment that Mom finally loses it."

Today Jonah may have thought I finally cracked. After he cleared the clog and washed his hands with soap - twice - I calmly explained that this was the new order. He was now the family plunger. I think I made my point. Whether that point was a warning to use less toilet paper, or proof that his mother is actually insane, I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see what happens the next time he flips on the fan.

image via The Frugal Law Student


  1. You should write a book Liz! I'm cracking up here! By the way - we are dealing with the same toilet paper clogging 6 year old over here at our house. I'm at the point where I just want to start wiping his butt myself!

  2. Abbie,

    Make him the family plunger and see if that makes an impression. I told Jonah the next step was to make him wear a diaper. Of course that's yet another empty threat. At least that's what I'm saying now... ;)