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The declaration of bathroom independence

My son has reached the state of potty training they don't tell you about. As new parents, the end goal seems to be the mythical day when they make it to the toilet and you don't have to change a diaper. Congratulations, you're potty trained!

No. Not by a long shot. There are actually more steps after that. That's the part we don't talk about enough. Then there is the transition to underwear from pullups. Then there is the issue of making it through the night without wetting the bed. (Remind your child to use the toilet before bedtime and encourage them to get up in the night if they think they need to go.) Then there's when your child wants to go to the bathroom on their own without your help. Then it's the work of the finer details in...shall we say "hygiene."

Right now, we're at the especially annoying (more annoying than just going in their pants, really) phase of him thinking he's independent in the bathroom department. Which is awesome--until it isn't and he needs help. For awhile he wouldn't tell anybody he'd gone to the bathroom so there'd be a full potty you'd nearly bump into. (Several stray socks met an unfortunate dunking due to this.) Now he's even gotten so bold as to simply empty the small one into the real toilet himself if he decides to go in it.

The bigger problem, however, is public restrooms. He's nearly 5. Which I don't consider nearly old enough to use a public bathroom by himself--even leaving aside safety concerns. The last thing anybody needs is a kid with his pants around his ankles trying to open the restroom door to come get a parent. So I go in with him even though 9x out of 10 he absolutely doesn't need me. As we walk in I ask, "do you need help?" Usually he says no and then I'm left standing like an idiot with nothing to do but watch him pee and try to get his pants and underwear back up.

I always joke that one of the reasons I stay home is for the minor-but-important moments in life that come up where you're thankful to have a parent around. If somebody is going to teach you to stand closer to the toilet so you don't pee on the floor or toilet, it probably should be your father. The other day we learned about why boys underwear has a hole in the front. Blew his mind--something to aspire to.

As I wrote about in my review of a new Chicago park awhile back, public restrooms present a difficult situation for all parents. With a younger sibling along, they pretty much have to go into the restroom of the supervising parent. Three of us jammed into one stall . It's either that or leave one to run around while you help the other.

You can bet good money that the moment I assume one of my kids has something under control that will be the moment they need help. Backwards pants. Can't turn a faucet on. Or--my son's favorite--they need someone to hold their ears because the damn automatic hand dryers are so loud. It has definitely made me look at life differently...these days I curse the older bathrooms with nothing but tall urinals so that I'm stuck lifting up and trying to aim a kid who is shaky with the concept of peeing standing up anyway.

So, parents, welcome to the post-potty training world of still being needed. Usually your help will be entirely unwanted by a preschooler who would much rather do it himself. Or, also likely, they'll ask you to do something you feel they could do perfectly well on their own if they'd just give it another try. These moments are not always happy ones though I'm getting better at it.

Yesterday I was discussing with another parent from my son's class the problem of having 2 bathrooms on the second floor of their home but no downstairs bathroom. When their daughter goes upstairs to use it and needs help, somebody has to go all the way upstairs to help her. Gosh. That kind of logistical problem never even occurred to me. That sucks. But I could definitely relate. It's not something we openly discuss in the parenting world, but when it does come up everybody in the group--man or woman--gets it.