“Mom, Sam peed on the floor!”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Yes, he did!”
“Yes, I did!”
“No, he didn’t,” I assured them dubiously from the laundry room where I was folding clothes. There was actually very little doubt in my mind that he had in fact peed on the floor. I had just a tiny sliver of hope that he was messing with me. But I held firm.
“And do you know how I know that he didn’t pee on the floor? Because Sam is a big boy who is potty-trained and big boys pee in toilets…or on trees when they’re outside.”
“I peed on the floor,” Sam confirmed. “And in my underwear. And on my pants and shoes.”
I dropped my head back and closed my eyes. My tiny sliver of hope had just about vanished from my soul at this point. Sam had recently decided to prioritize play and TV and eating and reading stories and just about any other activity over finding a bathroom. Which annoyed me because he was potty-trained. He hadn’t had an accident in months. We were just about to receive a slew of accolades and awards from the Institute of Potty-Training Overseers Who Award Kids Who Haven’t Peed Their Pants in a While. We had a party planned and everything.
I walked into the living room where Nate and Sam had been building towers and slides for their marbles.
“See?” Sam said.
He moved to the side so I could see the dark stain on the carpet and the wetness on his sweatpants.
“I peed on the floor.”
Nate looked up at me before returning to the marbles. “Told you so.”
I’m trying this new thing where I don’t flip out and get angry and drop an abundance of profanity or punch a hole through the TV. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it yet, but it’s a developing skill.
And I’m finding that it’s especially challenging with Sam. Every morning I wake up with a mental list of things I’d like to accomplish. It includes but is not limited to: eating, being on time, go to the bathroom, laundry, cooking, feeding/sleeping/diapering Tess, and maintaining order and some minimal level of cleanliness in our home.
But Sam…is in another world. It’s filled with imaginary characters and inane observations about his surroundings. I mean, he has the agenda of a three year-old.
While I have the agenda of a thirty-three year-old.
He dawdles and wanders, he daydreams, he narrates his every action and thought in a low murmur—mostly to himself. And then he shrieks and makes loud, excited announcements when I need him to be quiet. Like when I’m putting a baby to bed.
Meanwhile I’ve been hardened by adult life. I just want to accomplish my list with as few obstacles as possible. Sam is usually my obstacle.
And so lately, when he’s suddenly been peeing anywhere but in the toilet, it’s been…aggravating. But in my Zen-like attempt at parenting—seeking serenity and peaceful problem solving instead of anger—I made a decision not to react to him right then.
“I peed on the floor!” he announced again. “Someone should change me!”
“Well, I’m not. You know how to get dressed. Change yourself. And hurry up because you stink.” I twisted my nose at the growing stench of urine in the air and returned to the laundry room.
“Yeah, you stink, Sam! Can I go outside?”
“Sure, Nate. Here, take this chalk out there.” He charged out the front door, gasping for air and sat down on the front steps to draw.
“No, you change me, Mom! This is yucky and I hate it.”
“Then stop peeing in your pants. Use the toilet.”
He stood up and threw his head back in protest, drooping his shoulders forward so that his fingers dropped past his knees. It’s a classic Sam pose.
“Here are some clean clothes.” I threw some pants and underwear that I had just washed on the bottom step and went to start making dinner.
I could hear him waddling around, trying not to let his sticky sweatpants, heavy with urine, touch his legs. A few minutes later I found him sprawled upside down on the bottom step, his legs spread across the second and third steps. I was struck by how tall he looked in that position and also by the foul urine odor. He was still soaked in pee and had made no attempt to remove his wet clothing.
He watched Nate through the storm door, happily chalking up our sidewalk in the fresh spring air.
“You change me, Mom?” He sounded weak, sulky, almost defeated.
“No, you can do it. If you’re going to have ‘accidents’ then you can change yourself. Or hang out in your own filth.”
But the stink and the discomfort must have been too much because eventually Sam joined Nate on the front step. His wet pants, underwear, socks, and shoes were strewn across the hardwood floor. He was squatting, bare-assed, coloring and making small talk with our elderly neighbor, who had just pulled into her driveway.
I was proud of him. I mean, I cringed a little when a dog walker crossed to the other side of the street as she approached our house and spotted a half-naked boy, but still. And I should admit that I cringed again when both boys stormed into the house a little later smearing chalk residue all over the hardwood floors, sofa cushions, and coffee table, but regardless, I think we made progress that day. All of us.