I spent 20 minutes in the toilet at soft play this morning. If you were there, no matter where you were sat, you probably heard me, or at least saw me leave. I was the one carrying a screaming boy under my left arm, whilst clumsily steering the overtired baby in the buggy and carrying the bags with the other.
I should clarify that I wasn’t using the toilet myself – that’s the kind of detail you don’t need (unless you’re a bit weird). I spent 20 minutes with my increasingly fractious baby sat in his buggy, whilst attempting to coax my almost threenager to wee in the ‘big boy toilet’ for the first time. We only started potty training a week ago and while he has done incredibly well and we’ve had many proud moments celebrating his every turd and tinkle, he’s recently become frightened of public toilets so the ensuing histrionics, I suppose, were predictable. In short though, I’d forgotten to order more bags for the travel potty and so here we were. Here we were, kneeling on the floor, trying not to think about the germs and remnants of other peoples’ bodily functions, as my eldest boy let out an increasingly ear-splitting wail as if his world had come to an abrupt and frightening end.
A few other moms came in and out during this time. All (in my head at least) trailed by a perfectly calm and well behaved tiny human, who quickly did their biz before leaving us to continue our drama. None made eye-contact. We were invisible. Screaming, red-faced, snotty, flailing – but invisible. I get why. Perhaps out of politeness, so as not to embarrass us further or to draw more attention and I’m sure I’ve done the same at some point or other, but in many ways their silence only accentuated our noise.
But then another mom came in with her little girl and this one was different. She didn’t do much really. She smiled at me: a knowing smile, a sisterly smile that said ‘I get it’ and she said “breathe” – a welcome rather than patronizing reminder. I smiled back and muttered something over the screams about how “someone doesn’t want to use the big-boy toilet today” to which she reassured me that she’d “been there and back out the other side. It’ll pass”. And that was it. She went on her way. She didn’t do much. But she did. In that moment I felt someone was on my side. We weren’t being judged or pitied or laughed at. Someone understood and for that I was thankful.
It can feel like a competition sometimes, this parenting thing. A competition or a race to reach the next milestone, or to have the cleverest, or most talented, or well behaved kid – if there was a booby prize for the latter it’d have been ours for the taking this morning, that I know. So today I was thankful for the lady in the toilet, the lady whose name I don’t know but who helped me feel just a little bit better about it all and like perhaps, we were doing ok or at least would be ok, after all.