Recently I was sitting on the toilet peeing while my nearly 2-year old daughter was sitting in my lap playing with her stuffed koala bear, and I thought to myself, how did we get here? It could be worse, I suppose — we could be doing this as a performance art piece at a pop-up gallery in downtown L.A.
You see, peeing while my daughter sits in my lap is not something I planned, per se, but, like my inadvertent collection of promotional earplugs, it just sort of happened slowly over time. It's not like anyone explains to you that that you can either raise a baby with a healthy sense of attachment, or you can raise a little attachment pee-er. It's just understood you'll all be doing the peeing on your own time. It's not covered in any of the books or anything, and if you try to search online for "baby insists on sitting on my lap while I pee" you just get a bunch of results about dogs.
But best as I can surmise, this is what the literature refers to as a clingy phase. Velcro days, the old ball and chain, lil' jefe. Call it what you will, but it's time to lose yourself in the yellow wallpaper again, 'cause you won't be dashing off to the next room or anywhere else anytime soon — at least without a fight.
On the upside, it has coincided with emerging evidence of bona fide empathy, with the kid showing awareness of the emotions of everything from people to puree — "Don't cry, applesauce — applesauce sad," she repeated very sympathetically recently to a spilled glob of applesauce on the carpet. Still, Mommy's little warden is acting like her 8-month-old self again. Only this time, she comes wielding a much shorter, albeit very cute, leash.
And speaking of leashes, this peeing together, it's no easy row to hoe. First off, I'm only in this situation because ever since I had the baby, when I have to pee, no matter what I'm doing, it's like I just have to take whatever is in my hands and hurl it out of my way angrily, and then sprint to the bathroom. (Does this only happen to me?)
Already I've made the classic rookie mistake of moving so much as two centimeters away from her, and suddenly, she's never been so clingy in all her life, except for the last time she was this clingy precisely 17 minutes earlier.
I round the corner to home base to take up my usual peeing position, look up and there she is sobbing as if I just informed her that stuffed koala bears hate children. I don't know about the rest of you hyenas, but it's game over for me, and my instinct to pick her up and comfort her cannot be assuaged by anything, not even pee, not even a foresworn irritation with helicopter parenting, not even as autonomy's single biggest fan. So up I scoop her for our lady time. Baby calmed, peeing ensues.
Off I pee, a hump like a snow-hill — and maybe it's not so odd after all? I for one grew up with a lot of sisters, so peeing in such a way where you were always at the ready for someone to, say, bust through the door and start hitting you over the head with a Strawberry Shortcake Apricot scented doll, was par for the course. But I really thought those days were behind me.
Second, full disclosure: Sometimes while we're peeing, she says "ewwww." I don't know where this came from. One day I was changing her diaper and she just said "ewwww." Do they say "ewwww" when they change her diaper at daycare? Did I thoughtlessly say "ewwww" while changing a particularly pungent diaper and set off what is sure to become a lifelong struggle with body shame issues? Have I been eating a lot of asparagus?
Hey, at least she's learning about flushing and handwashing — you can't take that away from us! But third, it's like that whole frog in boiling water thing. If you just marched me into the bathroom and said I had to pee with my baby sitting on my lap, I'd be all "whuh?" But if you slowly over time sent my baby charging into the bathroom sobbing and yelling "mommy pee" I might just give in once, or, you know, a dozen times. Otherwise you're just shutting the baby out so you can pee and it's like, what am I doing here? I'm just boiling in pee here.
And for something so gloriously simple and silly, it really brings up a lot of pressing, urgent questions not unlike the gotta-go sensation. Like, how long do these phases last? How many times does giving in equal baby rules your life? How many times does sternly refusing equal baby hates your guts? What is the math on this? Can I get a statistician in here, stat? Is my baby now going to try to pee with others, or just me?
I'm guessing, like so many parenting issues, that it either matters a whole lot or not at all, probably both. The best part is, it'll take decades before I find out. Perhaps it's more philosophical: If a frog and her daughter pee together in a forest and no one is around to say "ewwww," is it still gross?
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her baby hides broken toys in the potty.
Photo illustration by Jim Cooke, images via Shutterstock.