By MARYBETH MAASSEN
As we approach Spring Break I realize Los Alamos residents—particularly those with school-age children—are absolutely over-wrought with the anticipation of leaving the hill for a few days.
As we all know, travel is not what it used to be. It is an exercise in patience, patience, and patience. Did I say patience? In order to encourage you to be patient, not only with your own children, but the children (and parents) of those you will encounter on your travels, I would like to share the story of a short flight I once took, alone, with my own children. Names have been changed to protect the not-so- innocent.
I was six months pregnant with Michael, Garrett was 15 months old, and Carly was almost four. It was a non-stop flight. Everything was absolutely peachy for the first half of the trip. This isn’t so bad, I thought. The children were sound asleep, as were most of the passengers around us. I sort of needed to pee, but it was very quiet, and I didn’t want to press my luck. I crossed my legs and tried to relax.
I had just begun to read, when Garrett woke with an earsplitting yowl. He then started to cry inconsolably, jolting every other passenger awake. At first I thought he was just startled at waking up in such a strange place. But even as I held him close, patted his back, and quietly reassured him that it was okay, he continued to cry. I tried feeding him—Garrett loved to eat—but that just made him mad.
Now Carly was awake. “Mommy, I have to pee,” she said. “I have to pee right now.” She opened her eyes wide, clenched her teeth, and nodded her head forward to emphasize the urgency of her situation.
“Can you wait just a minute? I need to get Garrett calmed down.” I whispered to her. She just opened her eyes wider and leaned forward with her hands wedged between her legs to let me know she needed to go right NOW.
Garrett looked up at me with his big blue tear-filled eyes. He took a breath and grimaced. As he exhaled, he released a loud fart that sputtered and resonated from one end of the plane to the other. Muffled chuckles, snickers, and murmurs of disgust, rippled through the cabin. Carly laughed out loud. “He farted mom!” she exclaimed loudly as she moved her hands from between her legs to across her mouth, trying to suppress her laughter.
Garrett immediately raises up and away from my shoulders. He took another deep breath and as he exhaled this time, I could feel his diaper rumble with an audible gurgling noise. Simultaneously, my hand that held his bottom grew warm and damp. “Crap!” I thought.
Now I was in quite a pickle. Garrett’s diaper was stinky and poopy. Carly and I both needed to pee. It was time for the inevitable, but dreaded, trip to the lavatory. Carly wiggled out past me and bounced down the aisle toward the restroom. I maneuvered out of the seat and in to the narrow pathway, my now infamous son grinning proudly in my arms. I smiled apologetically to the passengers as we went by. I didn’t know how I was going to manage it once we got there, but I slowly waddled my pregnant body toward the land of the tiny toilet.
I opened the door to the lavatory. Carly was standing just inside the door staring at the small silver toilet. She looked up at me with a wrinkled nose. “Mom…”
When Carly was an infant she would scream immediately after filling her diaper. She had potty trained herself when she was fourteen months old. She had a well-defined comfort zone when it came to going potty. She would sit on the toilet at home, at my mother’s house, and at my sister’s house. Beyond that she was extremely reluctant to place her sweet little bare butt anywhere else. This toilet was really different. It was small, it was stainless, and there was a very small pool of blue water at the bottom. Worst of all, there was a constant loud whooshing noise accompanied by a cool breeze coming out of the bowl. Carly freaked out.
I sat Garrett in the sink as Carly climbed up my body in terror, making “eek, eek, eek” monkey sounds all the way into my arms. Garrett was watching himself in the mirror.
Every time he put both hands on his reflection, he would lean forward against the faucet and a small stream of water would spray out onto his lap. I wondered why the water was non-potable, but only briefly because Carly had come completely unglued and had her arms and legs wrapped tight around me, lest she fall into the snarling toilet.
“It’s okay Carly, you just sit on the rim of the toilet and when you pee it disappears into the bottom of the bowl.”
“What’s under the bottom of the bowl?” she asked suspiciously, looking down while holding me even tighter.
“The place where your pee goes.” I responded.
“But where does the pee go?” she asked insistently. “Does it go somewhere here in the plane, or does it just go out into the sky? Does the pee go in the clouds and on the angels?”
“No, the pee doesn’t go on the angels. It goes into a bigger bowl with sort of a lid on it that sits in the bottom of the plane.” I lied. I had no idea where the pee went. Worse than that, it had never occurred to me to ponder the question.
“Down where the suitcases are?”
I didn’t know what to say anymore. “Here, watch mommy pee. You’ll see it’ll be okay.”
I had to have room to turnaround and place my backside onto the toilet. So I lifted Carly up and stood her on the sink counter. I put down paper towels for her feet and had her stand with one leg on either side of her brother. I scooted him around a little bit to drain out some of the water because the sink was filling up and starting to overflow onto the floor.
I kept her steady with one hand while I shut the lavatory door, wiggled out of my jeans, and sat on the potty. Carly’s “eek, eek, eek,” was now an “eew, eew, eew.” She “eewed” the whole time I was trying to get situated. Her brother started rubbing water on her sneakers. She lifted her foot to shake it off and accidentally kicked him in the mouth with her non-potable- water-soaked shoe. She fell off the sink and into my lap. Pee started to roll down her legs, my legs, and onto my pants and the bathroom floor.
Garrett’s lip was bleeding and he was crying like he had been kicked in the face—go figure. Carly was screaming and crying because she was on top of the evil butt-sucking toilet and—in complete defiance of her fastidiousness—peeing her pants. I sat there with my fat behind stuck solidly to the tiny, but evil, butt-sucking toilet. It was as if my rear-end had become one with the toilet bowl and we were held together by some sort of vacuumed-sealed airlock. My pants lay in the slimy, watery, urine-saturated mess on the floor.
I cried because I didn’t know what else to do.
I had absolutely no dignity left after walking through the plane in wet stinky jeans, and with my two wet stinky and bleeding children in my arms. Rather than go back to the lavatory, I cleaned the kids up one at a time right in their seats. I pulled a change of clothes from the overnight bag, wiped Carly down with a wash cloth (this was before disposable handi-wipes) and changed her into dry pants. Garrett was next. He was a bloody wet mess. I cleaned his face and gave him his bottle. He sucked happily while I removed his poopy diaper and dressed him in clean clothes.
I put Garrett’s baby quilt over my lap and pulled my jeans and underwear off underneath it. I don’t think anyone noticed until Carly yelled at me– “Mommy, don’t take your pants off!”
Yea! Nothing like a little vacation. Just don’t forget to pack your patience.