About a month ago, it was a gloriously warm fall day and I’d taken all three kids to the park alone. I wasn’t meeting anyone and my husband was at work. It was me v. three kids, one of whom needs to nurse pretty much all the time.
No big deal though. The baby was asleep and she’d been asleep for a while. If she woke up, she’d want to nurse and we’d have to leave the park. I can not keep track of two mobile small children while I’m pinned to a bench nursing a child. I just can’t.
We’d just gotten to the park and walked quite a ways to the playground when Lily announced she had to go potty. This is infuriating because a) she’d just gone at home and b) we were parked next to a bathroom. We walked back. The bathrooms are single rooms with one toilet in them and a lock on the door. They are cavernous and echo. If I took the baby inside the bathroom, she would surely wake up and I’d need to feed her and we’d need to leave. So I did what seemed to be a great idea at the time but turned out to be a MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR parenting mistake: I told Lily to use the potty by herself while I waited outside.
Lily insisted on taking Rose with her because she was scared to go in alone. Fine. There was nothing to be scared of. It’s a single potty, a sink and a door. There is one entrance. I was waiting right outside it. NOTHING scary. But I let Rose go in there with her. HUGE MISTAKE. HUGE.
Several minutes later I heard the toilet flush and both little girls screaming “AAAAAAAAA!!!! MOMMMMMMMYYYYYY!!!!!!!!! HELP!!!!!!!!” at the top of their lungs. I was terrified something bad had happened. I ran over (leaving my sleeping baby in the stroller nearby, directly in my view). What was wrong? What had happened? Oh no! What had I done?
They were screaming because the toilet was too loud and it scared them. Nothing bad had happened. They were just scared of the loud noise. I comforted them, but basically told them to suck it up. It was just a noise. The toilet can’t hurt them. It was over. Or so I thought.
Little did I know at the time, but I created a major problem. Now every time we go to a public restroom, Rose is terrified to use the potty because she is scared it will flush too loudly. Forget the problem of my having to carry a potty seat bag. That’s a minor problem compared to this one. She literally will not pee on SOME public potties (not all of them) because she is “too scared” of whatever noise they may make.
At a return visit to this particular park, the best playground park in our town, she peed her pants because she was too scared to use any of the toilets. My husband dragged her to every restroom at the park and promised he wouldn’t flush it with her in there, but she still peed herself before she would use the toilet. All because I thought it would be ok to send a 5 year old and a 3 year old alone into a private room with a toilet while I stood outside. What was I thinking?
Last weekend, my husband had to drive her 10 minutes away from another park so she could use the potty at a different public toilet because she absolutely refused to use the toilet at the park. She was “too scared”. We couldn’t blame her that time though. It was a latrine.
This past weekend, she was “too scared” of the noise the public toilet would make at a rest stop and we ended up in a stand off situation. She screamed her head off while I repeatedly (and pretty calmly considering) told her her choices: “Pee in this potty right now or you have to wear a pull-up for the rest of the trip. Potty or diaper. Your choice. It’s not going to flush. I will not flush it with you in here.” After many many MANY tears were shed, she finally peed in the potty.
I induced a never-known fear in her. All this headache and tears over the fact I wanted the baby to stay asleep while the big girls peed. That bathroom totally would have woken her up even if we hadn’t flushed while we were in there. Still, I’d take an awake baby over a tantrum every time we have to pee in public ANY DAY.
Lesson: Even if it seems totally harmless to send your 5 year old and 3 year old into a totally private toilet to pee while you stand right outside the door, you are WRONG. It’s the worst. WORST. Don’t do it.
This is how fears are formed.