It was a beautiful day at the beach until I heard the dreaded words: “Mom! I have to go poop.”
I don’t think there are too many of us that will deny peeing in the ocean. It is so convenient. The waves rush that little bit of pee-pee away better than the fanciest of toilets. Poop, on the other hand, is very inconvenient.
So we left that beautiful glittering beach and made our way up to the public restrooms, my six-year-old son leading the way. Depending on the temperature, and/or the urgency with which the child needs to find the porcelain throne, the stretch of sand between ocean and civilization can feel like walking across a desert. Dragging along a tot little sister that wants to collect every shell within six inches of her toes doesn’t help matters. But we made it onto the weather-beaten deck to the coquina walls of the men’s room.
Poop Mistake #1: Failure to Provide Instructions
“You go on in and I’ll wait here,” I told him. My son slowly moved forward, through the door-less entrance, and located a stall within sight. Meanwhile, the tot was scampering about the deck, dancing to her own music.
“Do I need to flush?” My son called out, as a preliminary.
The tot spotted the water fountain nearby and began to squeal with enthusiasm. I propped her up on my leg as she proceeded to dribble water all down her chest, down the side of the machine, down her arm, and down everywhere but the intended destination.
Indistinct words from within the stall drifted over to me.
“What?” I called. Repeat that times five, and finally a translation was made: “What if I can’t get all the poop off my butt?”
I told him to do his best in a hurried fashion while craning my neck around to see that he was still standing behind the stall door, making no progress. I looked around me — the coast was clear. Apparently no other males in the vicinity needed to relieve themselves.
“Why did that light flicker?” The boy shouted.
“Poop, child. Just poop.”
Poop Mistake #2: Failure to Specify Time Limit
Having drunk about a teaspoon of water while soaking herself with about a gallon, the tot was satisfied to continue her dance about the deck. She kindly offered to assist me by holding our beach hats and then arranged them in a row on the deck.
“Which one do you want, mama? Big, big, or big?” She looked up at me with a patronizing smile as she gestured to my three options. It wasn’t really a question, it was a toddler demand. It mean: you will take a hat. I told her I wanted mine, while wondering how many poop particles and urine splashes my hat already had collected sitting on the floor at the entrance to the bathroom.
Her eyebrows furrowed. “Big, big, or big?”
I gave in and told her “big.” She handed me a hat with great satisfaction — one that wasn’t mine. I decided to pick my battles, and that dealing with the pooping boy was enough.
“It’s diarrhea poop!” The boy shouted toward me loud enough to be certain he would not have to repeat his statement five times again.
From my view outside the bathroom, I could see that he had taken off his shoes and his pants and piled them haphazardly all over the floor. He had then either disappeared within the stall or was squatting over the toilet. I imagined the latter, while his hands touched all kinds of disgusting surfaces. As far as I was concerned his shoes and trunks had become vectors of multiple intestinal viruses. Five minutes went by.
“How’s it going?” I called out, glad to see signs of legs and feet again…which were standing barefoot on the bathroom floor.
“I got poop on my leg!” This was not an expression of distress, it was just a loud announcement.
“Wipe it off.”
Just how long he had poop on his leg for I can’t be certain, but I don’t think poop dries all that fast.
“There’s poop on my trunks!”
I said a silent prayer.
Then there were shuffling sounds for about two more minutes, and finally the glorious sound of the stall opening. I thought maybe we could return back to the clean, loveliness of the beach. The boy started walking toward me.
Poop Mistake #3: Failure to Bring Shoes
“Wash your hands!” I held up my own in the international body language for “stop.” Or, truthfully, like I thought the poop germs were coming at me like a swarm of bees. The boy made a sharp turn toward the sink.
“I can’t reach the soap!”
“Climb up there!” I have seen the child scale complicated playground equipment, and yet he was helpless in the public bathroom.
“I can’t!” He shouted pitifully.
I looked at the ground, and then at my at least moderately germ-free bare feet. Not intending to go in the bathroom myself, and not having thought this whole scenario though, I had left my flip-flops on the beach. A debate took place: Was it better to have my feet carrying poop germs and/or catching athlete’s foot, or for him to have his hands covered in germs that would go into mouth, giving him the norovirus, which would then spread throughout the whole household…
“I’m coming,” I said with a deep sigh. Gingerly I tiptoed across the suspiciously wet, grainy floor.
And that was that…until it was the tot’s turn.