“I need to go potty,” Blonde Bomber said. It was only a two-hour road trip, one we usually can do without stopping for a potty break.
Was she bluffing? Did she really have to go to the bathroom? Or was she just bored and looking for a way out of the van for a few minutes?
Not wanting to chance it, I pulled into McDonald’s. I then realized there was a problem. We had the dog with us.
How could I take my daughter into the bathroom, and leave the dog in the car? It wasn’t terribly hot out, but it was definitely warm enough. I could just see a window of my van getting smashed during the five minutes I was in the bathroom because someone thought I was cruel enough to leave my dog in the car while we ate at McDonald’s.
Not wanting to risk someone busting up my van, instead I asked First Born to take her in for me.
I pulled into a parking spot where they wouldn’t have to navigate the parking lot. I helped unbuckle Blonde Bomber, and held the dog’s collar while First Born did everything else. She walked her in, took her potty, washed her hands, and brought her back out, easy as could be.
That’s not the point of the story though.
The ease of this potty break could not have been more different from a similar trip just a few short years before. A trip with me, my kids, and thankfully — no dog.
Potty break vs. the Cardinal Rule of Driving Kids
This particular time it wasn’t them I worried about. We were driving along, about half way home, and I started to get this churning feeling in my stomach. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw three kids content in the back seat.
I couldn’t break the cardinal rule of driving with kids, “Do Not Stop Unless Absolutely Necessary,” but at that moment my body took control of my brain. It said, “Pull over the car now, or there will be some serious consequences to this vehicle and to dad’s manhood.”
I pulled off the interstate and into a Starbucks. I knew Starbucks had a bathroom that only one person at a time could use and lock the door behind them. Don’t ask me how I know this, it’s just one thing I happen to keep track of.
Once in the parking lot, I dragged everyone out of their car seats and into Starbucks. I had to fight them past the display case of cake pops and pastries, promising them we would get treats when we left. By the hand of God, when I turned the bathroom door handle, it opened.
I tossed the kids into the men’s room, put the Blonde Bomber (a baby at the time) on my lap, and had my moment right there on the toilet.
The two older kids were grossed out by how bad it smelled, so I gave a “courtesy flush.” My son was so freaked out by the noise of the jet propulsion toilet flush that he started to cry and run for the door. So there I was, sitting on a toilet with my pants around my ankles, holding my baby on my lap in the men’s room. My son had the bathroom door open trying to escape and I’m holding onto the back of his shirt trying to get him to shut the door and stop freaking out. All the while, my daughter stood in the corner complaining loudly about the chaos and the smell.
After a few minutes of stress, sweat, agony and more sweat we managed to make it out of the bathroom. We headed straight for the front door, I’m sure everyone in that place heard what happened in the men’s room. After we were all bucked in, we drove around to the drive-thru to get our cake pops. None for me thank you, I’ll just take a Sprite.
A version of this first appeared on Indy’s Child.
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