And, no, the first lesson is not, “don’t go to a swimming pool bathroom if you have three kids under the age of six and two of them are newly potty-trained and take forty minutes to get around to doing their thing.”
Although that would have been a good one. But that’s the thing about potty-training and kids in general. When they gotta go, they gotta go. And yes, fellow swimmers in public pools, you can thank me for taking them from the community swimming pool to make them go. In the gross toilets.
The first lesson is that the time is takes a kid to use the potty is inversely related to the location and convenience of the potty. Our house (equipped with several, clean, age-appropriate potties) with an afternoon with nothing on the agenda? Both Sam and Ellie can finish their business in about five minutes. But in a swimming pool bathroom with a wet concrete floor (let’s hope it was pool water) and wet toilet seats (same hope here)? The process became painstakingly slow. And that was just their general dawdling. The process is already slow for anyone dripping wet and trying to peel their suctioned suit from their body. Double that if your a little girl with a passion for bathing suits that feature tu-tu bottoms and ruffles in inconvenient places. Most of our swimming pool time was spent crammed into an un-air-conditioned stall of the pool bathroom.
The second lesson is that the gag reflex is a learned response. I know this because my gag reflex kicked in as soon as I spotted the ball of matted hair on the floor of our stall. Since the toilet was occupied with Ellie’s bottom, I couldn’t lean over to puke, but I did shiver and gag as I wondered from where and from whom that hair had come. When I opened my eyes from the shivering and gagging, Sam was touching the hairball.
The third lesson is that perspective is a powerful tool. It’s easy to make promises while reading potty-training articles sitting in my dry, clean home. “I will NOT go back to diapers–not even swim diapers!” “I will ALWAYS remember the potty-training process is scary and new for the child, so I will NOT force them.” “This is NOT a control battle between me and my child. I will let them learn at their own speed.”
Right. Except in a swimming pool bathroom.
Dripping wet and hot and pregnant in a 2×5 stall, watching my son touch a hairball, is the moment that all vows change. I’m not proud that I told Ellie she had to the count of three to finish her business and put her wet suit back on before I put her in a swim diaper. And I’m pretty sure I’ve taught my kids the gag reflex by my reaction to Sam touching that hairball. But we all survived, and Sam and Ellie still seem to be securely on the path to being independent pottiers.
Which is a good thing.
Because we’re not going back to the public pool until they are.