Column: Parental privacy? Not even in last refuge

By JASON RECKER

The bathroom door had been shut but for eight seconds when the handle turned and a toddler poked her nose into the gap.

“Daddy,” she began. “You going potty?”

“No,” I replied. “I am sitting on a toilet because I was bored.”

“Daddy,” she ascertained, her voice rising as if she’d realized she’d been tricked. “You going potty!”

She shoved the door wide open, rested a baby doll on the floor and left. There I sat, all broken-hearted, nature’s call exposed to whomever passed down the hallway, lest I waddle two steps to swing the door closed. But moves such as those are risky. So I forfeited my coveted alone time yet again while a 3-year-old turned the cold floor into sleeping quarters for dolls.

Sadly, this stinky situation is nothing new. Children do not appreciate or respect that which is the solitude of the bathroom. Uninterrupted, the restroom escape is a purifying experience that sparks creativity, promotes relaxation and gets me the heck away from my kids for at least five minutes. Except that in my home, we might as well have installed the john right next to the coffee table.

Any time I or my wife excuses ourself from a situation to expunge bodily waste, children migrate to the lavatory like ants descending upon a tub of icing. They rush in to tattle on one another. They barge in with a request to watch TV. They plod in with uncertainties over homework (the answer should always be “One question plus Dad going No. 2 equals you have three seconds to get out of this room.”). They even wander into the room when I’m plunging, watching under my arms as I trigger a tidal wave of, um, that’s not chocolate milk, kids.

It’s as if they do not think of these things until one of their parents sits on the Gerber (1.6 gallons per flush). Instead of asking the parent folding laundry, they must ask the parent on the pot.

I have tried locking them out, but they pound the door like a bass drum and desperately screech about how “I need to tell you something.” Well, I need to check Twitter — don’t act like you don’t take your phone with you — so unless somebody is chasing them with a Louisville Slugger, I am inclined to turn them away. This is not the kind of potty training we intended. And still, they enter and gasp.

“It smells in here,” they declare, surprised, I guess, that the air isn’t graced with the aroma of dryer sheets.

“Well sorry. I stopped pooping candy canes after Christmas,” I say. “But if I eat enough Thin Mints, maybe I can work some magic.”

I remind them that it’s rude to storm a bathroom with SWAT team haste unless the bathroom is also ISIS headquarters.

“Huh?”

“I’m going to the bathroom. Why on Earth would you want to be in here? Leave. Shut the door.”

Rarely do they shut the door. It makes me wonder if the stalls at school are open-air depositories. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. When they use the bathroom, they usually holler for something. Can you get me a book? Can you hold my drink? Think this will clog? “Daaaa-aaaad!” they wail. “I need you!”

“You are using the bathroom. It is one of the most fundamental parts of life. It could not get much simpler. Just sit and let it rip,” I answer. “If there is a tiger shark inside the toilet, let me know. Otherwise, you’re on your own. By yourself. How bathrooms are meant to be.”

Sometimes, when I go home for lunch, I sit on the toilet when I don’t even have to go. I just close the door, scroll through Facebook and inhale the beautiful scent of isolation.

It lasts less than 30 seconds. The door creaks open and a nose emerges. Seriously, dog? You, too? Now that stinks.

Jason Recker is the News Editor at The Herald. He believes toilet paper should be dispensed from the top of the roll. His email is jrecker@dcherald.com.




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