Last night, Charlotte was busy hacking away at a perfectly innocent avocado when suddenly her entire demeanor changed. She looked at me and this terrified look crossed her face.
Any parent who has ever toilet-trained a child knows what look I’m talking about. It’s the look that tells me that DAMN IT, my next ten minutes include urine. I rue the day that terrified look was invented.
If I ever have a chance to personally fuck with biology, my first order of business is going to be giving toddlers bigger bladders.
Since she has toilet-trained, Charlotte has had a handful of accidents. They are rare, but every time her reaction is overwhelmingly one of shame and horror.
This reaction can last for days, like a lingering cloud of toddler anxiety and I don’t always know who is more disappointed: her because she had an accident, or me because I can’t figure out how to communicate to her that I don’t really give a damn how much poop winds up on the floor as long as she’s happy and healthy and we’re all together. The following morning, she will walk near the scene of the incident and a look of frustration will flicker across her face. I PEED, she’ll tell me. IT WAS AN AX-TI-DENT, MOMMA. IN MY UNDERPANTS. I SO SORRY. IT WAS AN AX-TI-DENT.
And for days, I kneel down to her level. I know you did, I tell her. It’s okay, darling. You don’t need to be sorry. Accidents happen.
I tell her stories about when I was littler, like her, about how I had accidents too. I tell her that now that I’m older, I have different accidents, like spilling cups of milk across the table or calling the wrong telephone number. We all have accidents, I tell her. I talk to her about her anatomy, about how her bladder is still small and how controlling urination will become easier as she ages and her bladder grows and matures.
She looks at me then and it’s like a switch flips on. The angst vanishes, the tension is erased. She is happy again. NO AX-TI-DENTS TODAY, MOMMA! I AM, I AM WEARING UNDERPANTS! PURPLE ONES! YEAH! WITH A RAINBOW!
That’s the spirit!, I tell her. And as I watch her run away – to build castles with her blocks or to create a work of art on the kitchen floor – I think THAT’S MY GIRL. My girl with the rainbow underpants on.
It doesn’t quite have the same ring as a dragon tattoo, does it?