A Tale of True Terror
I hear the sound of another success. It’s ‘Hail to the Chief’ this time.
“I did it!” yells my little sister, Gwen, victory fists in the air as she runs out of the bathroom. “I did it! I did it!”
She dances around the living room in nothing but her shirt.
I sit on the couch reading my book about Ariel the mermaid. Gwen’s immature behavior doesn’t merit my attention. It’s like getting bows in our hair. My hair always has a pretty bow. Nana says my long, yellow hair makes me look like an angel. Gwen always pulls hers bows, clips, whatever, out. That’s if you’re lucky enough to get a bow in her hair in the first place.
“Gwen, you forgot to put your pants back on,” says Mom. Gwen looks down at her naked parts. Her eyebrows raise and her eyes shift from side to side like she’s pulled off a neat little trick. Without a second thought she goes back to dancing around the room.
A minute later Mom shows up with the missing pants and panties.
“Sweetheart,” she says as she re-dresses Gwen, “part of going to the potty is putting your clothes back on.”
“I don’t like clothes,” she answers as if things like pants and undies cramp her style.
“But without clothes you can’t play in the park. Think about the slide.” explains mom. “Slides don’t work without clothes.”
Gwen’s shoulders drop. She lets out a relenting breath.
If only she knew the truth. Clothes are the least of her problems. She may have passed one hurdle, using that pink throne that makes music every time something falls or trickles into it’s bucket, but the next step is the Big Toilet.
Pretty soon she’ll be in the middle of the grocery store when she starts doing the pee-pee dance. Mom will drop everything and rush her to the bathroom. The toilets in that kind of place are HUGE. The seats don’t even close completely. There’s this big gap in the front. Her heart’ll race as she balances on that seat. But mom will be there holding her so she won’t fall and get eaten by the Toilet Monster.
As far as monsters go, the toilet kind are the worst. Forget the Boogie Man in the closet. All you’ve got to do is keep the door closed and he can’t get out. That creepy thing that hides under your bed? It’s nothing. Stay under the blankets and you’re fine. But there is no avoiding that beast that nips at your butt when your butt is most vulnerable. Did you know that Toilet Monsters can hide spiders underneath the rim? They may be invisible to the naked eye, but those spiders alone are enough to keep a kid scared.
Poor Gwen may be forced to learn this lesson the way that I did.
I’m two years older, so you might say I’ve got some experience under my belt. I know all my letters, can count to ten, name any color or shape – heck, I actually read a couple books.
The day of my near-death experience was a Sunday. We were sitting in the big meeting where everyone’s on benches. People stand at the pulpit, tell stories, read scriptures, and teach about Jesus and God. I try to listen, but it’s hard. Mom lets us color pictures and look at picture books. None of that works, however, when you can’t think because you need to Go.
“Mommy, I need to go potty,” I whispered.
“Do you want me to come or will you be okay on your own?”
She looked down at me with her eyebrows raised. It made me feel proud to think that mommy would trust me to do it all by myself. So, I nodded, then practically ran from our bench out into the foyer. Two doors down the hall I saw the lady picture and shoved my way in.
A blast of bathroom smelly stuff hit me. My footsteps rang across the tile floor. I looked around. Three empty stalls and a sink counter still too high for me to reach. The place was empty. I charged toward first toilet I saw, locked the door, pulled down my Snow White undies and hiked up onto the seat.
No sooner than I’d propped myself into place, the yellow river gushed. Talk about relief! All things were right again. I’d hop off, pull up my Snow Whites, and run back. But when I moved my arm to get down, the plastic seat swerved to one side. I lost my balance. I fell, butt first, into the watery jaws of the Toilet Monster.
It was cold. My wet bum was bare inches from the hole in the bottom where all the toilet stuff swirls away. Once that thing gets you, you’re a goner.
The only thing saving me from the jaws of doom, was my elbows braced against the seat. My Sunday dress was gathered up around me like a puffy donut. My legs were useless. One of them was trapped in the seat gap where you always see pee stains. The other was stuck right next to it since they were tied together at the ankles by my underwear.
“Mom!” I yelled. “Mom!” My calls echoed through the bathroom.
Tears were streaming down my face. She couldn’t hear me. No one could hear me. They were all in the big meeting room not thinking twice about me and the Toilet Monster.
That’s when the idea dawned on me. If anyone could help it was the Big Guy upstairs. So, I said a little prayer.
Dear God, I’m thankful I made it here in time to pee. (You’re always supposed to say some kind of thank you first.) But I don’t want to die. This Toilet Monster is going to eat me whole. I need help. An angel would be nice. I’ve always wanted to see an angel, but if no one’s available, any kind of help would be great.
I don’t know if you believe in miracles or not, but a miracle happened that day. As soon as my prayer was done, the bathroom door creaked open. Footsteps echoed across the tiles.
“Hello?”the stranger called.
Hey! I knew that voice. It belonged to our sometimes baby-sitter, an orange haired girl with funny freckles all over her skin.
“Eloise?” I said back. Her black shoes clacked into my view through the gap between the floor and my stall door.
“Cozette?” She slapped her hand against the locked door. It rattled, but didn’t move. I cried. “Cozy? Are you okay? Do you need help?
Cozy! I grumble to myself between the tears, The name is Cozette, thank you!
Ellie and me never were on good terms. She didn’t believe me when I told her the rules as they should be – like mom’s iPad was mine for as long as I liked, we could have cookies for dinner and take our plates in the livingroom to watch TV while we eat… There were a lot of new rules I liked.
Ellie took the iPad away, and made us eat peas for dinner on the table in the kitchen. She even made us go to bed on time. But on this occasion, I couldn’t have been happier to hear her voice.
“Ellie,” I whimpered, “I’m stuck. I’m stuck and I can’t get out.”
She pulled on the stall door handle. Why had I locked it? I wailed and cried harder. Somebody’d have to tear down the door. By the time they finished that task, I’d be long gone.
“It’s okay Cozy,” said Ellie. “I’m coming.”
That’s when amazing Ellie, in her Sunday dress, dropped to the floor. She scooted and shimmied through the gap beneath the door.
As I watched in amazement, my elbows collapsed. I screamed. It was too late! My butt sank deeper into the cold wetness. My dress was around my neck. I was buck naked inside the toilet, hanging by my armpits, fighting for my life.
Ellie climbed up to her feet.
“The Toilet Monster’s gonna get me,” I wailed.
She slipped her fingers underneath my arm pits and lifted me out. The water sloshed as my butt rose. Once I was completely out, all I could do was hug her.
Amazing Ellie washed my wet bum at the sink. She cleaned my legs and let me wash my hands. It felt so good to have my Snow White undies back on.
She carried me back into the big meeting where, after a few quiet words, she handed me off to my mom.
Now I take precautions. For example, I never lock the stall door. If the seat slips at all, I move on to another toilet. I get on and off in as little time as possible, which means I can’t poop just anywhere. It’s a small sacrifice given the possible consequences. But most importantly, I pee on the safe toilet at home every time before I leave.
So the next time you set your butt on a toilet seat, think twice about what lurks in the bowl. When it comes to strange toilets, you never know if there’s crickets and spiders that hide just under the rim. How’d you like to stand up with an eight-legged friend smooshed between your cheeks? Or even worse, getting a bite that itches and swells right there in the middle of your private parts.
You do as you want. At least you’ve been warned. Just remember, the Toilet Monster is ready and waiting to bring you harm.
The Problem With Being a Parent
I’ve decided the problem with being a parent is the kids. No, it’s not that I wasn’t fully aware of the material aspects of the situation. Almost every prospective parent pauses to consider providing food, shelter, clothing, education, and any number of other basics before taking the plunge. It’s the other stuff no one explained to me, like personality quirks, for example.
My four year old daughter is determined to wear anything but what I have asked her to put on. I tell her she needs to wear pants, she shows up in shorts. We tell her to get ready for bed, she comes out of her room in a leotard. Sometimes I’ll find her dressed for the day in odd combinations like neon green floral shorts, a pastel print shirt, white cowboy boots (sans socks), and a frilly head band worn horizontally across her forehead.
This child is so driven by her own sense of style, she convinced her older brother he needed a hair cut and that she was the beautician for the job. The space underneath our dinner table, being conveniently out of sight, was transformed into her salon. My talented little hairdresser snipped off random chunks of hair until three bald spots were exposed across the back of my son’s head.
Needless to say, I was not pleased. It was, however, rather entertaining for the two of them as they watched their mother frantically search for some way to fix a mess that was un-fixable. As it turned out, my son was stuck with three bald spots for over a month.
The experts say that as parents we’re supposed to teach our children how to be responsible by giving them jobs, having them contribute to the needs of the family and home. Thus, I made up charts. All kinds of charts. Daily charts. Weekly charts. I evaluated what the kids could or could not handle from scrubbing the toilets (never) to depositing dirty diapers in the diaper pail (always).
To keep us headed in the right direction we have family meetings. My husband and I explain what is expected. Everyone agrees to help. Two mornings later, (if I’m lucky for two days) I’ll find myself reminding my seven-year-old son for the nine-hundredth time that he needs to make his bed.
“It’s too hard.” he complains. (Note, he has already performed the task to my satisfaction for at least two mornings.)
I tell him to do the best he can.
He says he needs to do his homework first.
I remind him that the bed should have been made before he left for school, thus the bed must be made before he begins his homework.
Suddenly the little man is gripped by the urgent need to relieve his bladder. He runs to the bathroom. (Heaven only knows why, if it was so urgent, he didn’t go running to the toilet sooner.)
An hour later I remember to check on his progress, only to find the bed spread and sheets draped across every piece of furniture in the room.
“Hey mom!” my son calls from beneath it all, “Look at my fort! Isn’t it totally cool?”
I’m ready to scream. Do you think any research has been done into the emotional trauma parents experience?
Just recently my husband opened our freezer and found one of our dinner glasses filled to the brim with half dissolved bits of pizza crust, olives, carrots, milk, tomato sauce, mushrooms and a small amount of water in addition to whatever else had been found left over from our pizza dinner two nights before. The two who had been assigned to dishwasher loading duty on that evening were called to be questioned.
“That’s our ‘spearment dad.” explained my daughter as if it was the obvious explanation we’d missed.
“We,” began my son in his most intellectual, know-it-all tone, “were trying to see if it would freeze.”
My husband paused to set the glass next to the kitchen sink and calm his emotions.
“Almost anything you put in the freezer will freeze.” he explained, “That’s why it’s called a freezer.”
“Of course.” replied my son loftily, “That’s what I thought. Rachelle was the one who wanted to know.”
My daughter stifled a giggle.
Both my husband and I suspected there was more to it than a simple “‘spearment” as she had called it.
“Well, please do not do anything like this again.” said my husband, “Now clean this mess up.”
The two of them always call their unique concoctions ‘experiments’ but, I’ve heard them making secret plans to feed the brews to their baby sister. Frankly, it’s not the notion of their baby sister consuming such muck that bothers me as much as them scheming to feed it to her.
Speaking of the baby, that singular, wiry little infant could almost count double for the trouble her two older siblings have caused. I believe she’s come to the conclusion that she is an adult, with all of the related privileges. Twice now I’ve found my makeup scattered and smeared into the carpet after one of her secret primping sessions. Mom and Dad’s bed is considered to be hers as well. She’s crawled between sheets to leave loving pen marks, smears of facial cream and dots of toothpaste.
What makes her the most dreadful of my three children, however, is her uncanny ability to escape from almost anything. Houdini would have been proud of a prodigy like her. She can climb out of any playpen, over any gate, under any play yard, out of any car seat, and into any cabinet or drawer no matter what precautions we take.
In the process of challenging her unique abilities, we’ve spent a significant amount of money. I’m proud of her obvious intelligence and physical dexterity. Her freedom, on the other hand, is going to drive me insane. The little daredevil will climb up to stand on high window ledges, her wobbly body scarcely retaining her position as she bangs on the glass with all her might.
What’s worse is that her mouth is constantly hiding (often swallowing) objectionable objects. I’ve already had the unique thrill of finding a large button in her diaper after it’s made the precarious journey in one end and out the other. Who was supposed to warn me about kids like her? Who was supposed to explain to me that there’s more to child raising than keeping them alive and showing them off in cute outfits at picnics?
My mother says I was a good baby. My parents also have an interesting picture of my father with a patch over his eye because I scratched it badly. There’s a lengthy gash down the front of the fridge my parents now keep in the garage. I’m told this was the result of little me having an altercation with a floor lamp. On that occasion, the floor lamp was deemed dead. Obviously the gouged refrigerator (brand new at the time) survived. There are even some tell-tale black marks around one of the electrical outlets at my old home where I decided to conduct an experiment of my own with a hanger. I admit it was a very memorable, yet painful experiment.
I remember how it used to make me angry when my mother told me to go change my clothes because she disapproved of the artful combination I’d concocted, and how huge and horrible our family room looked when it was time to pick up the toys. On my first day of kindergarten I trimmed my own bangs to one inch in length. Any member of my family can testify of my talent for avoiding dish duty by dashing to the toilet. (Trust me, I really did need to go.)
Maybe the problem with being a parent is that we’ve managed to forget what it was like when we were younger. Perhaps we remember the tough lessons we learned and don’t want our children to feel the same pain. It seems so much simpler to live the reasonably, get the work done when it needs to be done, wear what’s suitable for the weather, and think about the consequences before attempting something new.
Then again, maybe on occasion, it’s healthy to climb into my son’s bed sheet castle, to watch the look of triumph on my toddler’s face as she overcomes my latest attempt at confining her, wear the wild array of ribbons and clips my daughter’s twined into my hair, and see the world again from a whole new point of view.
In spite of the added stress, I love them. In fact, because of those exasperating moments, I think I love them more. It’s the balance between our two extremes which keeps us afloat. They keep me looking at new possibilities, I keep them within reason. It’s a system that, in it’s haphazard way, works.