Stay-at-home dad here– taking a break on the toilet. I’m typing on the laptop I snuck into the bathroom while my wild-ass kids were distracted with ice cream sandwiches. I am happy sitting alone. The odor of urine from the faulty aim of my four-year-old son no longer bothers me; it comes with the territory. Shades of light blue stripe our bathroom walls; it’s like pooping in a closet-sized candy store.
It’s time to reach into my sweatpants for my King Size Kit Kat! I break off each bar and hold them like communion wafers, savoring each bite, enjoying the chocolatey goodness, licking it off my fingertips. You might think its gross to eat in the bathroom. Don’t judge me. This is the only place I can eat candy without having to share.
What’s that? My four-year-old son is banging on the door.
“What do you need buddy?”
“Daddy, I want to watch TV!”
“No TV ’til later.”
“But Daddy I wanna watch tornado videos.”
“Sorry. No tornadoes right now.”
“But Daddy. What if a tornado comes and I don’t know what to do?”
“Hmmm. You should talk to momma about that.”
I hear his feet shuffle down the hallway. My four-year-old son wakes at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t stop moving or talking until he passes out at bedtime. He quit napping two years ago. In his pre-k classroom, during nap time, he
fell asleep (first time all year) and shocked his teacher so much that she checked his pulse. During pick-up, she flashed a picture on her phone because she feared we wouldn’t believe her.
I check my phone to see what my fellow dads are discussing in our private Facebook group. Mommy groups have a reputation for drama, but daddy groups can be equally ridiculous. It never fails that a dad will post a picture of their gun collection with a syrupy comment anticipating the day when they can teach their child to shoot a firearm. This triggers an endless argument ranging from gun violence to the second amendment to hunting. Of course, we solve all these issues in a social media thread, and everyone is satisfied.
Out of curiosity, I ask my fellow dads what they do while hiding in the bathroom. Here is what they said:
1. Meditate (really?)
2. Read Reddit Threads on Drones (why?)
3. Dwell on poor choices (understandable)
I enjoy my children, but I also enjoy not being around them. The burden of keeping a little person alive despite forces of gravity, choking hazards and disease will wear you down. At least once a day, I say to myself, that could have killed him.
To maintain sanity as a parent, it’s essential to take a break and escape to a childless place, preferably one with alcohol and snacks. Sometimes the bathroom will have to do. Before I had children, I would have judged the parent hiding in the bathroom. I would have thought they were being ridiculous, but now, I get it. Small kids are exhausting.
When my father needed a break from me and my sister, he would walk up the hill to my grandmother’s house and watch HBO. If we tried to follow him, my mother would call us back to the yard. I consider this a benign memory, but I fear my kids will remember me as the dad who hid in the bathroom eating King Size Kit Kat’s.
What’s that? I hear babbling and a toy rolling in the hallway. My one-year-old son is passing by. This child has been in a bad mood for sixteen months. All of our friends chuckle at his intense stare and skeptical brow. My wife refers to him as “grumpy baby.” She is certain he has my personality.
He stops near the door.
I mute my phone and freeze. I take shallow breaths and try not to shift my weight on the squeaky seat. The boy has ears like a bat.
He jiggles the doorknob.
I look out the bathroom window to relieve my numb butt. My neighbor is flipping burgers on a shiny, deluxe grill. He’s in his late twenties, unmarried, no kids. He looks so happy. I imagine myself sitting on his deck with a cold beer and juicy burger. I imagine myself not worrying about the rash spreading across my toddler’s stomach or what my four-year-old is doing so quietly in the kitchen. But it doesn’t make me feel better. So, I imagine my neighbor choking on a hamburger.
I hear a knock.
“How much longer are you gonna be in there?” asks my wife.
“You can pee with the door open like everyone else in this house,” she says.
I hear her sigh as she walks away.
Now, the countdown to bedtime begins.
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