Potty Lock: Lessons From a Brief Imprisonment

On Saturday I had the privilege of seeing life from the confines of a 4 x 7 foot cell. Not as a result of petty theft or even because of solidarity with my imprisoned Christian brethren, but because I closed the door to the bathroom. And it was broken. And I’m an idiot.

You have to understand: I am still over the moon that Drew poops in the potty. Just today he looked up at me from the toilet with those moony brown eyes and asked, “Are you proud of me, Mommy?” Yes, baby, I am! But let’s not wake up Madeline from her nap, let’s just close the door here behind us for a sec until you flush…

I had forgotten the knob was jankety. Not crunk in the slightest, just totally jankety, yo.

I spent the first few moments in denial, inexplicably yanking on the doorknob. It was obviously not budging one iota, but there I stood.

Once when I was in the fourth grade, my Sunday school teacher couldn’t open the door to our classroom. He was a big strapping man and I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “strapping” to describe someone in a long time. He was jiggling and tugging on the knob for the better part of 10 minutes, when I, smarmy, intelligent, raucous and rebellious, stepped out of line, walked right up to that wood-paneled door, and turned the knob. Mr. Buchanan looked at me like I was Criss Angel levitating an SUV.

Banking on the chance I might still possess this magic touch, I persisted while Drew watched silently. Then I had an idea. I would give Jesus a chance to show off. YES. An object lesson! Thank you, Lord, for this opportunity to show your true nature in a way Thing One can understand it. You always DO work things out for the good. Just like you to work a reverse miracle. I’m tracking with you now.

“Drew, let’s pray that Jesus will help us get out of the bathroom, OK?”

“Ok,” he said.

“Lord, please help us get out of this bathroom.” I paused for effect. I couldn’t think of anything else to say, but this is just the prayer Jesus must appreciate. Maybe I should have invoked Joshua and the trumpeters of Jericho, but I decided to keep it simple. Then I placed my hand on the knob that was damp from perspiration, and inhaled. I knew this miracle wouldn’t require much effort because miracles aren’t about effort but about belief. And I believed, nay, KNEW the knob would turn itself.

But it didn’t. I tried again, remembering the way my Sunday school teacher’s lush mustache had seemed so determined. Then I looked at Drew. Was this a Sword in the Stone scenario, where only the pure in heart can show feats of strength? He stepped up to the door, his hand on the hilt, trembling, but it slipped off the glass knob like mine had done before. It was so sullen and indifferent, that glass knob. So like a cat.

It appeared we were in it for the long haul. And the long haul turned out to be approximately one hour and 51 minutes, during which time I tried kicking down the door, throwing my weight against it, and scouring the cabinets for things to insert into the various doorknob holes to do God knows what.

I learned a few things during our incarceration:

1. I am lost and naked without my iPhone. I’m a trembling infant of a human being, a wraith, a lost child. I heard it ringing in the bedroom and moaned from a very deep place in my diaphragm.

2. Your second child, once she is informed via you bellowing, that you are unavailable to get her out of her crib or change her poopy diaper, will be displeased. She will be very displeased. She will wail in a way reminiscent of those ladies at Kim Jong-Il funeral procession, except with tears.

3. There are lots of things to do in a bathroom, besides the usual suspects. This list includes but is not limited to: teaching the proper disinfection of a toilet conveyed at a preschool level, playing Red Light Green Light, reading potty books with slight snobbishness because hey, we ARE potty trained; singing Joy to the World; making circles on the tile with a flashlight beam; pretending to be at preschool, which involves activities like choosing the Happy Helper for the day and singing about The Days of the Week.

4. It is possible and also hilarious to use a miniature toilet as an adult. In a previous post, I included a picture of the tiny toilet we have in the kids’ bathroom upstairs. It is actually plumbed but is the size of a training potty. I believe Snow White and the seven dwarfs owned our home previously, or maybe Kim Jong-Il. “Mommy, you too big for dis potty,” Drew laughed as I squatted down. I don’t think anybody would describe me as “all limbs” but in that situation I looked positively supermodelish, all folded in on myself like a cricket.

5. I like Madeline. Sure, she shrieks like a redheaded hyena from dawn till dusk and is all drama all the time. Sure she believes food was created for shot put practice and as a means of driving Mommy to drink. But hearing her angry cries, and then her sad cries, and then her desperate wails, made me realize I like her more than I actually thought.

Epilogue: Gordon was fortunately coming home early that day so we could attend a happy hour at a friend’s house. (Which was the perfect end to that episode, I might add.) I heard his footsteps in the hallway and in an instant the door was open and fresh air and light was ours again. Every day since, Drew reminds me of “dat time we were yocked in the bathroom.”

I think our bond will last well into February.
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7 Comments to “Potty Lock: Lessons From a Brief Imprisonment”
  1. Peggy Rhodes says:

    What a crazy tale!!!!!

  2. Rachael in Australia says:

    I don’t think anybody would describe me as “all limbs” but in that situation I looked positively supermodelish, all folded in on myself like a cricket.

    Ha, ha, what a fabulous description. Good to hear that you had some “quality” time with Drew. It would have been quite harrowing to hear Madeline’s distress and know you couldn’t do anything about it.

    Thank you Lord for happy hour.

    • Julie Rhodes says:

      Ha! Yep, it sure was an interesting experience. Gordon got all handy-man the next morning and fixed every doorknob upstairs! 🙂

  3. Bay says:

    My loving toddler son learned how to lock a deadbolt. While mommy was outside throwing out the trash. In mid-December in northern Michigan. I had no phone or keys. I had just said to myself “self, what would you do if you got locked out? Good thing your house keys are in the car”. They weren’t in the car. I’m 8 months pregnant. I had to dig through the shed to find a lawn chair to perch precariously upon to climb through the only unlocked window. Did I mention I was grotesquely pregnant? Not fun. Lesson learned- never go anywhere without my iPhone.

    • Julie Rhodes says:

      OH MY GOSH, that’s the worst locked-out story I’ve ever heard. I think all pregnant women need to wear those help-I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get up necklaces.

  4. Victoria says:

    Oh, my goodness! This made me laugh, and then have horrible flashbacks. Once, last summer, when I was a personal assistant, I got locked out of their house. No phone, no car keys, no shoes, nothing. It was 105 outside and I walked onto the back porch for something, and the screen door locked behind me. I spent a significant amount of time praying for God to show off and unlock the door. Then tried, unsuccessfully to get their dog to jump up and press on the latch. Then, spent a while cursing the door.
    I ended up going to the neighbors house, still barefoot mind you, and calling my bosses office from the number in the phone book. It was by far one of my most pathetic moments!

    • Julie Rhodes says:

      Ugh that is AWFUL! It’s one of those things that you really could just…do without. Especially in the heat of summer.

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