We’ve been working on the very start of potty learning with W, which mostly means that we talk a lot about the potty, read books about the potty, and every time I use the potty, I narrate a running commentary. The constant potty talk appears to be breaking down my social barriers that would normally govern appropriate topics of conversation in public places. The other day, my husband and I took W to the bookstore. While we looked at books, I suddenly felt the urge to use the potty. “Mama has to go poo poo,” I announced at regular speaking volume, in full earshot of the other book-browsing patrons. “Let’s go to the potty!” My husband was briefly speechless, then cracked up. I was a little embarrassed, to be sure, but it could have been worse…I could have made that same announcement in the middle of a bookstore without W there as an excuse! It could totally happen. I’m so used to narrating everything that I sometimes find myself talking aloud even when she’s not around.
Honestly, while my social barriers are lower than they once were, my embarrassment threshold is higher. The things that would once have sent me diving, red-faced, under the nearest rock (like announcing my need to poop to entire bookstore) now barely register. We were in Target a few days ago to buy a lunch box and water bottle for W, who starts daycare this week. I gave her a choice of two “big girl” water bottles, and she fell in love with both. I explained that I would only buy her one, and that the other one needed to go back on the shelf. I asked her which she wanted, and she pointed to both. Long story short, my attempt to extract her preference was protracted, and the eventual selection of a single water bottle (and replacement of the other bottle on the shelf) resulted in a sobbing, back-arching tantrum in the middle of the store. Before I had a toddler, I would have imagined myself mortified in this situation. If I’d seen another mother in this situation, I would have been mortified for her. Now? Meh. Toddlers tantrum. Doesn’t mean they’re bad kids, doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom…it just happens. Sure, I try to control it, I try to arrest it, and I apologize to those within ear-splitting range, but I can’t honestly say I’m embarrassed; it just comes with the territory.
During the same trip to the mall that resulted in my poop announcement, I left W with her daddy at the bookstore while I went to browse the sales racks at a few clothing stores. Doof-the-lovey had accompanied us to the mall, of course, but W wanted me to carry him for her, so I’d stuffed him under my arm where he remained as I entered Banana Republic sans child. The sales girl greeted me, then did a double take. “I see you brought your little friend,” she said in a slightly mocking tone, as she eyed the little yellow butterfly-bear with his sparkly purple wings. Once upon a time, I would have been horrified. I would have stammered to explain that I did, in fact, have a daughter, and that she was elsewhere in the mall, and…and…and. These days, though, I don’t skip a beat.
“Yep,” I said, “I did,” and off I trotted to the sales rack, Doof in tow.
The Banana Republic sales girl, all of 21, is toned and gorgeous. Her hair is perfect, and she doesn’t ever have to comb jam out of it. She doesn’t have a funky little flap of extra skin on her tummy that won’t go away no matter how many crunches she does. She doesn’t announce that she has to poop at Barnes and Noble. She is either critical of or embarrassed for, depending upon her mood at the moment, moms of tantruming toddlers at Target. And under no circumstances would she ever find herself at an upscale clothing retailer with a stuffed animal under her arm. Not now, anyway. But someday, when she’s a mother, she’ll realize that all those heart-stopping mortifications of her pre-parenthood days just weren’t that big a deal. After all, with regard to embarrassing child-related public moments, observers are either parents or they’re not. In the case of the former, it’s not necessary to explain because they’ve been there and they totally get it. In the case of the latter, it’s not worth it to explain; they can’t begin to understand…at least, not yet.
What have you done in public that would once have mortified you?