You know that loud and disgusting Dumb and Dumber scene where Harry is straddling the toilet because Lloyd slipped a laxative into his drink?
So there we were at Home Depot. My very newly potty-trained daughter and I rushed towards the restrooms because she gave me the typical ten-second warning [why does that always happen in public?!]. We entered the bathroom behind a slightly older lady, who shot us an interesting look as if she was thinking, “Oh crap.” But in hind sight, I think that’s exactly what she was thinking as her Taco Bell lunch rumbled around in her angry tummy. A few seconds after getting my daughter settled into our stall, I heard noises coming from this woman’s stall, who just so happened to be right next to ours. These weren’t any noises, you guys. Her body was clearly in rejection mode, and me? I went into panic mode.
Before I could even problem solve how to keep my toddler from embarrassing everyone in the room [besides herself], it happened.
“What is she doing, Mommy?” She asked in the world’s least practiced whisper.
In fact, when I think back, I wish my pointer finger would have more quickly met my lips as I mouthed “shhhh”. I wanted the moment to be over, and I hurried my daughter as much as humanly possible to finish potty-ing.
More. deathly. number. two. noises…
At this point, my extremely curious and caring bundle of joy opened her mouth again and said, “Mommy, is she ok?”
And then this…
The suffering stranger in the stall next to us started demonically uttering obscenities, grunts, and demeaning parenting advice from her nose-burning cave.
We hurried. I did more shhh-ing. We left our stall. We washed our hands. The lady continued her grumbly- only louder. Apparently she thought the awkward situation needed to be more awkward.
And you know what? I FUMED.
I would tell you the rest of the story, but it was NOT one of my finer parenting moments, may have involved me waiting for her to come out of the stall, and also included the words “watch out for the grumpy lady” coming out of my mouth as my daughter and I tried to open the deathroom [I mean restroom] door at the same time as Taco Bell’s former customer.
Now in all seriousness, the situation obviously could’ve been handled differently by all parties, and especially me. But you know what I would like to say to The Woman at the Store [after apologizing of course]?
“I’m new at this whole parenting thing. I’m doing the best I can. I was just basking in the small victory of my child actually telling me she had to use the restroom and making it there before we had an accident. We’ve been working really hard at this for a while. We’ve had good days and we’ve had really bad days. I’ve tried many methods, changed many clothes, bought a lot of pull-ups, and even cleaned up the carpet a time or two- Ok, more. I’m sorry that I missed the minor detail of informing her ‘not to talk to others in a public bathroom’ while I was busy trying to explain to her what it feels like when she has to go potty.
Although I can assure you that as soon as we made our way out of the restroom, and I strapped my daughter into her RaceCar Cart, I looked her in the eyes and told her a few things. One was that Mommy really messed up, and we talked about what kind of day you may have been having. Another was a lesson in public restroom etiquette. And another was assuring her it was ok when she looked at me with apologetic eyes because she’s not some thirteen-year-old jerk, but a tiny little girl still learning so much about the world around her.”
And to so many other women we run into while the kids and I are out running errands, I want to say:
“Thank you. Thank you for not getting upset with me when the large Police Car Cart I was pushing the kids in accidentally got in the way of your motorized one. In fact, you weren’t bothered at all, but instead delighted. You smiled at my littles and told me it didn’t look like the world was bothering them any. Little did you know, leaving the house was the last thing I wanted to do that morning, but I desperately needed an antibiotic to treat the mastitis that nursing my newborn had caused.”
“Thank you. Thank you for not being so rushed that you made me feel badly for blocking you from your handicapped spot as I stuffed two small children into their carseats. In fact, you apologized to me when you finally got out of the car. Not only that, but your face lit up as you told me about your own grandchildren.”
“Thank you. Thank you for entertaining my baby as he started to fuss while I was reaching for my wallet to pay for a few items and simultaneously keeping my daughter from jumping out of the cart. You saved me from feeling the flush in my face when my children have hit their max, but we’re not yet out of the store and settled into the car.”
I want to be you: the graceful, patient, and understanding ladies when I grow up rather than the judgmental, rushed, and bitter ones. I know I will leave this stage with young children someday, but I never want to forget it. I want to hold doors open and put carts away for moms with full hands and tired bodies. I want to be a comfort, an assurance, the smile they need that day, and if nothing else I never want my eyes to roll back in my head. I only want them to say, “I’ve been there, Mama.”