One Night, on the Cold Bathroom Floor, I Saw My Little Boy

“Pee pee in the potty! Pee pee in the potty!” This exclamation, both a plea and a demand, has become pretty common around 2 a.m. in our house recently. Our two-and-a-half-year-old son, Jake, is showing more and more interest in potty training. He isn’t yet ready to take the plunge into wearing his Thomas the Tank Engine undies full time (or at all, for that matter), but he often decides in the middle of the night that he doesn’t like the feel of his wet diaper. So he lets us know loudly and with great urgency that he has to go.

Oftentimes he’s already peed in his diaper and has no need for the potty. But this is a detail that he can’t quite articulate, and one that we can’t convince him of as we lead him, bleary-eyed and half awake, to the bathroom. He enjoys sitting on his potty – a blue and white plastic seat (with a “splash guard” in the front especially for boy trainees) that sits adjacent to the larger adult, porcelain version – even when he doesn’t need to use it. He knows that going potty makes him a big kid, and he is incredibly proud of that. As are we. But that pride can sometimes be difficult to muster when we’re sitting in front of him on the cold tile floor in the middle of the night, having quickly jumped out from under warm blankets in our drafty old house.

Earlier this week Jake summoned us over his baby monitor, as he always does. It was my turn to jump out of bed and answer his call. He had been sick the previous day, running a high fever and feeling listless, with no appetite. So I was quick to run to him, in the event that there was more to it than just wanting to sit on his plastic throne.

When I opened his bedroom door (which he cannot open, thanks to the door knob safety covers that prevent him from showing up unannounced in our room) he quickly shuffled down the hall toward the bathroom. I followed him and helped him urgently remove his PJ bottoms and diaper so that he wouldn’t fall, half naked, on the tile floor. That’s a humiliation that no one needs, not even a toddler.

As he sat on his potty in the dim light, mentioning every minute or so that he needed to do pee pee, I took a moment and looked in utter wonder at the little boy before me. Normally during one of these middle of the night bathroom visits, we’re trying to hurry the process along so that we can all get back to bed. But this night was different.

Jake sat there with bright rosy cheeks, thanks to the low-grade fever that was still warming up his little body. Despite his sickness, he happily recounted stories from books we had been reading. He told me of the Grinch, and how his sleigh raced down the snowy hill towards Whoville, with his doggy Max dressed as a reindeer. His face lit up as he quickly shifted to the story from his new snowman book, then back to the Grinch, and then to his Richard Scarry book. He smiled a huge grin and told me about the piggies riding in the red car, and Mistress Mouse fixing the big, broken truck. He excitedly described his own firetruck, and then explained how the Grinch threw his dog from the sleigh every time he tried to cling to him during their journey on Christmas Eve. Every word was uttered with pure, innocent joy, all while sitting on his potty.

Jake’s continuous descriptions seemed truly schizophrenic. But I was grateful that I was able to follow every single detail since I had been present for everything he was describing. Someone who didn’t know the books he reads or the cartoons he watches or the toys he has would be lost in an instant. To further complicate matters, his speech can be difficult to understand, since he only started speaking in full sentences a couple of months ago. But I am the master of Jake’s language, and proudly understand a good 70-80% of everything that flows from his mouth.

While he sat on his potty and told me these stories in his toddler accent, my little boy grabbed my hands and had them alternately warm his feet that were cold on our black and white tile floor, and stroke his face which was hot from his fever. He occasionally leaned over to give me a kiss before continuing his rant about his trucks.

I marked the moment in my mind. Most days I’m doing everything I can to keep up with him and his newborn brother. Most days I’m exhausted and just trying to get us to the next thing. Most days I’m pleading with him to eat or to put his shoes on or to hurry up and get ready or out the door or to leave the dog alone. And I hardly have a chance to enjoy him.

But on this night, on the cold bathroom floor, I saw my little boy. It’s these odd scenes that stay in your memory. One day I might not remember what our morning routines were like, but I hope to remember this brief moment that we shared.

He never did end up peeing in the potty that night. I had to convince him to put his diaper on and get back to bed. But only after indulging his stories and warming his feet and stroking his damp hair from his warm forehead.

Sometimes you need a potty incident to remember just how much you love someone.