Sunday, March 26, 2006

Singing Toilet Lady

I love to listen to my daughter talking to herself. I am positive that she would be angry and embarrassed if she knew I was eavesdropping (although I am perfectly certain I am within my rights as a parent to do so and feel no guilt whatsoever), but it is so damn cute! The conversations she has often involve her indignantly explaining something to an imaginary friend (for example, “It says it will respond to you. Don’t you know what respond means?”). She is a very willful person, anyway, so this doesn’t surprise me, but I have this fantasy that if she expresses her inner bossy-girl in this fashion more often, she won’t have such a propensity to do so with actual people.

There are certain times when she is more likely to engage in this behavior, most often when she is sitting on the toilet. When it first started, I would hear the low hum of her voice through the bathroom door and assume that she was calling for me to assist her. By the pointed silence that occurred after I responded to her, I quickly realized that this was not the case. Occasionally I can hear her giggling in response to the imagined conversation and have considered planting a hidden baby monitor somewhere so I can get better access to what’s going on. I do have some scruples, though, and that seems like crossing a pretty big line.

My favorite times are when she settles in on the toilet and just starts belting out a song. Sometimes it is an actual song, but more often she is free-associating to an orchestra in her head. My youngest has started to mimic this behavior and her songs are much less socially appropriate but, as far as I’m concerned, very cute. My girls seem to be oblivious of each others’ propensity to sing while on the toilet and I’m not sure if they have completely tuned it out, or just don’t see it as unusual. I’m fairly sure that I don’t sing while I’m doing my business, and in twelve years of marriage I’ve never observed my husband doing so, but perhaps it’s perfectly natural for little girls to sing on the toilet. Occasionally, one of them will get lost in her song and 15 minutes will go by with her warbling contentedly on the pot, door wide open to the kitchen, and I can hide around the corner smiling to myself. If they catch me listening, they instantly get embarrassed and angry and either slam the door or finish up quickly and stomp by me indignantly on their way through the kitchen. It is all I can do to restrain myself from chuckling or offering commentary on the song, because that’s just pure evil.

My mother tells me that for a while when I was little (3-5 years old), my nickname (coined by my father and brother) was “the singing-toilet lady”, so apparently my children come by it honestly. I do wonder, though, when and why I stopped, because I certainly don’t sing on the toilet now, and can’t remember having done so in the last 20 years at least. Honestly! Now, everyone knows that the acoustics are best in the bathroom, although most people take advantage of it in the shower, so I’m not really surprised that I began singing on the toilet, but why don’t I do it anymore?

The toilet isn’t the most comfortable seat in the house, but you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get some privacy if you’re sitting on it (unless you have small children who don’t yet understand or embrace the concept of privacy), so that’s a plus. It could be that it’s easier to come up with lyrics when your body is otherwise engaged in a basic biological function, thus letting the creative side have free reign. I want to know if there are any lyricists out there who have discovered that this works for them. I won’t say that any of the songs my girls come up with are top forty hits, but they’re still little, so maybe that will come with practice.

Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe employing the creative side of your brain in some mindless endeavor makes it easier for your lizard brain to take over and perform its biological functions more efficiently. Could some university design a study for people with constipation or enuresis that tests whether singing on the toilet is helpful? You won’t get a pharmaceutical company to fund it, but if it works, I can envision an entire new line of musical devices. Goodbye Metamucil, hello iPOT…

I imagine I stopped singing on the toilet because I simply couldn’t afford to take the time to do so anymore. I recall having a series of bladder infections when I was in first grade because I simply couldn’t be bothered to stop playing just to go pee. I would hold my bladder for hours and even came up with a fairly complex set of twisting/clenching/squatting maneuvers that would stave off the urge to go for a little while longer. I clearly remember my mother’s head poking out the front door of our house yelling, “Kari, you’re doing the potty dance again. Get in here and go right now!” No matter that all my neighborhood friends heard every embarrassing word, my mother wanted to avoid taking me to the hospital for another round of antibiotics, and now that I’m a mother, I can’t blame her, but back then I was too worried about missing some crucial element of the game we were playing to take time out to use the bathroom. Of course, one eventually has to go or risk peeing all over yourself in front of your friends and siblings (who are terribly unforgiving in such situations), so I eventually worked out a system.

I never wore clothes like overalls that take a long time to remove and put back on. I rarely wore pants with zippers or buttons. Thankfully I grew up in the 1970s when polyester elastic waist pants were in fashion. I would race through the house, thumbs in my waistband, slam the bathroom door behind me with my foot and shimmy toward the toilet pulling my pants down on the way. Grab the toilet paper while I was unleashing several hours’ (perhaps as much as eight) worth of urine as fast as I could, contracting my stomach muscles to push out every last drop, wipe, pull up my pants, and head back outside. Forget washing my hands! It is not that I wasn’t concerned about germs – au contraire! I convinced myself that so long as I was careful to only touch my bottom with the toilet paper and not get any pee on my hands, that washing was completely unnecessary. My rule was that if even the most minute, miniscule drop got on my hands, I would wash them, but I was not about to wait for the water to get warm, and I would use a ton of soap in order to compensate for the frigid temperature of the water.

As ridiculous as this little ritual seems, today I have a bladder of steel. During my pregnancies, I was able to complete my normal commute to work (1.5 hours each way) without having to stop to pee, and I never have to get up and pee in the middle of the night. I probably only go to the bathroom two times every day and I’m hoping that this will afford me some good fortune as I get older and my girlfriends are shopping for Depend Undergarments. I am hoping that all of those bladder infections and my little “potty dance” were akin to childhood Kegels and will make it easier for me to contain myself when I’m 65 and have a powerful urge to sneeze.

I much prefer to use my time on the toilet these days to read. Occasionally I lie to my family and excuse myself to the bathroom simply to escape into a room with a locking door. Once there, I sit on the toilet lid and read three or four pages at a time without fear of interruption. It is clear that my children have found me out when my youngest daughter yells from the other side of the door, “You gonna read the WHOLE book in there, Mom?”, while my older one snickers in delight. But I don’t mind; I just stomp past them indignantly on my way through the kitchen.

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