True Life: My Son Is Obsessed With Urinals

Illustration for article titled True Life: My Son Is Obsessed With Urinals

Writes Robert Radin in Salon, "When my son was 3 years old he became obsessed with urinals. Ordinary toilets held no particular charm for him. But urinals — well, that was another matter altogether."


While last week we learned about the travails of potty-training, now we learn the pitfalls in store for those who've mastered the bathroom: consuming obsession. The little boy's obsession with urinals becomes a tyranny that makes any foray out of the house protracted and urinal-centric, and because it cuts down on urinal time, the child refuses to let his mother take him to the bathroom.

"I have to pee."I wanted to say, "No, you don't have to pee; you just want to see the urinal, and you know what, it's the same urinal as the one at the last gas station. I'm not stopping, Boo. I am not stopping." And I would have said this, but my wife thinks our son is a god, and so if he said he had to pee then we had to honor the signals his body was giving him...I knew I couldn't win with her, so I told myself it was OK, this fixation of his.

I don't know about a god, but the kid is, like, a urinal savant! At the fancy Parker Meridien Hotel, the little boy says, "Probably they do have urinals. Probably the urinals have pink deodorizing disks inside of white baskets over the drain. Probably they have a low urinal for kids and a high one for grown-ups." Oh, and he also loves Stereolab.

After a while, the little boy gets over the urinal stage and moves onto Beethoven's piano sonatas. The parents are relieved, and still confused. The essay i, obviously, s a paeon to the mysterious fixations of childhood, and a good evocation - albeit a perhaps unintended nod to the strains such things place on the parental relationship and the push-pull of discipline versus self-expression. We've all known kids with odd fixations: pipes, shards of glass (no! dangerous!), meerkats, fine tailoring. This author is clearly very proud of his little boy, and rightly so: he seems smart and interesting and fun to hang out with, and one can pardon a bit of parental boastfulness (because I'm sure this whole first grade Beethoven thing doesn't make the other parents feel inadequate!) At the end of the day, despite his confusion, a urinal fixation makes total sense - they're fascinating! And completely disgusting and sort of primitive and weird! And, something the author doesn't address, they're just for boys, part of a secret male world that women cannot penetrate.

Off-topic: When I was very little, I had a tiny plastic dollhouse urinal. I don't know why. Big Leon, the albino baby doll with the functioning penis [What? -Ed.], was far too big to use it. Freddy and Drano, the little plastic brothers who came with the flea market motorboat, were the right scale, but had wet-suits permanently molded to their bodies, nullifying the need for evacuation. One day, I decided to pee in that tiny urinal, the only chance I'd ever have to use one. The results were predictably disastrous, and the end result was, my mom, apparently not considering me a goddess, threw it away. As a result, they've always retained a certain fascination; the author is wise to give into his child's vagaries.

Life Of The Potty [Salon]

Related: Once Upon A Potty


Erin Gloria Ryan

When I was teeny, I was afraid of portable toilets. I called them "big hole toilets" and my fear meant that we couldn't go camping in more rustic campgrounds because I would not poop in them. Once, I got really sick because we were camping in, like, South Dakota, and stayed at this really remote campground for a week, and the campground only had "big hole toilets," and so I didn't poop for a week.

True story.