Scaring the Sh*t Out of Them

I have a distaste for public bathrooms. Actually, it goes beyond that. My aversion rests just slightly above phobia. I hate them. Now that I have potty-trained toddlers, I end up spending a lot of time in my favorite little, dingy, smelly rooms, trying my hardest to act like these are like any other rooms and like I'm not utterly disgusted that my kids are using this toilet that everyone else uses. Because, really, when you type it out, it's not so bad. This is really an aversion I should get over. But I can't.

Anyway, so far, I've done a pretty good job faking it. The babies, of course, know not to touch anything. That's one thing I've been firm on. "Don't touch anything!" I used to say. Now I don't have to. We push that dirty door with the peeling paint open and flick on the fluorescent light and the babies are already repeating "Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Touch your knees. Touch mama. Don't touch anything else."

But, aside from that, we've been able to do our business in many public restrooms, from the grossest beach variety where sand and puddles of dirty sea water (and whatever else) pool around our feet, to classy, bright restaurant stalls, to darkened and stinky diner bathrooms. I was proud the babies seemed not to pick up on my misplaced germ hatred.

Until this weekend.

A double-whammy has left me with a new battle to fight -- a battle brought on by myself and my reactions.

It started at the pool. While one of my twins gleefully announces when she's going to pee in the water (we're working on that), the other insists on using the potty, something I prefer to water goings, but something that's nevertheless inconvenient.

I trot the babies out of the pool and into the community clubhouse where the bathrooms are. We walk in, and immediately Dulce says "It's too stinky in here." I said, "Yes, it is rather stinky, I wonder--UGH."

There it was. Someone had left a giant turd in the toilet of the women's restroom. We reversed out of there so fast we nearly lost our flip flops. Guh! Gross! Ugh ugh ugh ugh! Seriously, you can't flush your shit? What the heck is wrong with people? Ick. I can't. The image, the get it. But I'm still mentally washing myself, seriously.

There was no mistaking my reaction this time. No couching it or making light. The babies understood that the bathroom freaked mommy out. I didn't realize it at the time, but they carried the memory with them. Not of the scene, but of my reaction.

Fast forward to a few hours later. We're out at a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Dulce has to go. The restrooms are outside around the corner. They're predictably dark, smelly and cramped. I open the door, flick on the light, and Dulce takes a step in only to scream and scramble back out.

"Mama! Catepillar. Ah!"

A giant back scrub brush that looked remarkably like a catepillar had been left under the sink. I showed her that it was just a brush and tried to ready her for the bathroom.

"No, mama, I okay. Poo poos in there. I okay now. I go at home."

We didn't use the potty there.

An hour after that, we were at a restaurant, eating dinner. The babies dragged me to the restrooms three different times. Each time acting weird and scared in there, deciding not to sit on the toilet, telling me they were okay, and leaving.

We haven't had cause to go to another public restroom since, but each time that night I gently reassured them that everything was fine, that they didn't have to wait for home, that they can go anywhere that offers a bathroom facility, that it's good to go when you have to go.

It's going to be a battle, this I know. What we say leaves an impression on our kids, but not nearly as strong an impression as what we do or what we think. Kids pick up on everything. It's up to us to be solid, consistent and helpful for them.


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