Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Be Afraid

I’m a worrier, a born empathizer. I’m anxious. I’m Woody Allen without the cool, come-what-may attitude. I get nervous. Becoming a parent is most likely not the ideal situation for a person with these qualities; I now have four times the people to worry about as I used to. But it’s too late for that now.

I took the three older children to Davis-Kidd Booksellers this evening to get them out of the house and in an effort to give Kristy the chance to relax with just GK. Naturally, upon arrival, they had to go to the bathroom. Now, I know that there are all sorts of things for a parent to be concerned with when it comes to their children – violence, drugs, kidnapping, Caillou – and, rest assured, they’re all in the back of my skull, stewing, just waiting their turn to be brought to the forefront. But they’ll just have to wait, because tonight one of my greatest fears was realized once again – the public bathroom. Is there any criminal so insidious as a small room, containing other, smaller rooms, where the general public is allowed to relieve their bladders and bowels? Yet here I was, actually opening the door for my children, my offspring, to enter. It must have been 200 square feet of porcelain and tile, and it felt like the three of them did everything in their power to touch every square foot of it. This was a bookstore, however, and you’d think that the patrons, the learned people, men wearing tweed and glasses, would have the courtesy to lift a seat, would be practiced in their aim. Judging from the puddles and smears and paper thrown about like so much confetti, these people were just like any other people. And there, amongst it all, amongst the dribblings of colds and flu and plague and whatever else was festering and growing in there were my kids. These kids are not pristine by any stretch of the imagination, yet my first inclination was to have the boys drop their drawers in a corner and, without touching anything – ANYTHING! – pee in the corner. I wanted to sit S on the sink, on a bed of paper towels, to do her business. Truth be told, I thought about taking them back out in the bookstore to pee out there, probably in the self-help aisle, and more specifically, in the OCD section because I know it would be neat and orderly and clean to my specifications. But they’re “big boys and girls” now and insist on doing things themselves, actions such as lifting lids and flushing, the boys leaning precariously into the gaping maw of the urinal. Once this is all taken care of, my next inclination is to scrub them raw before we leave, because I still may have to touch them, and there is the possibility that they will be on or near my bed later. But the water in the faucets doesn’t get nearly hot enough, it never does, and most public restrooms these days have stopped stocking steel wool for just such an occasion. So they did their business, cleaned up as best was possible without a decontamination zone, and exited.

This next bit is one of the most frightening parts, because I’m sorry to say we didn’t leave the store at that time. I’m sorry to say that they were sent back out into the store, among the books and toys, amidst your very own children.