Yesterday morning my friend Rachel called, saying that she and Emma were going to play at the indoor play area at our local Carrefour (a large grocery store that has lots of other small stores built into its building.) Would we like to come? The weather was gray and cloudy so I jumped at the chance to take Clara Anne on a fun outing. But then as I was rushing around trying to get everyone ready to go, the thought occurred to me, "Oh, this will be Clara Anne's first time going out for a longer time where there isn't a western toilet. I wonder how we'll make that work..."
The background on this is that in this Asian country, in public places especially, there are no western, sit-down toilets. Instead there is what is called informally, a "squattie potty." For those of you who have never seen a squattie, the concept is pretty simple. There is a narrow porcelain basin set in the floor between two slabs where your feet should go. It takes a little bit of skill to be able to squat down, hold your clothes out of the way, and use it successfully. The nicer ones flush. The worst one I've ever used was just a trench--no stalls, privacy, or ability to flush whatsoever. Toilet paper is never available, so it's bring your own or drip dry. Most of us westerners who've been here awhile have developed the skill of successful squattie usage--if it is a question of being uncomfortable for hours on end or simply using a squattie, you learn pretty quickly to use the squattie. Also, you learn to always use your own bathroom before leaving the house so as to minimize the number of experiences in public toilets.
I personally do not mind too much using a squattie, since technically you can use one without ever touching anything. No seat to sit down on also means no germs. But I had not yet taught Clara Anne this skill. We have a western toilet at home, and the few times when we were out with her eating, we happened to be at places that had western toilets. So yesterday was a first. But I just thought that I would have her go before we left the house, and then maybe she would be able to make it until we got home again.
Well, as is the case so many times, I thought wrong. I had not planned well at all--I had dressed her in a onesie turtleneck with denim overalls. My original thinking was that I would have to help her in the bathroom anyway, so it didn't matter. Unfortunately it turned out that it did matter, quite a bit.
We got to the play place and Clara Anne immediately began having a fabulous time. There's a trampoline to bounce on, several large slides, climbing areas, a ball pit, a swing. . . you name it. But we were hardly there 15 minutes when Clara Anne got that awful look on her face which says. . . help, Mama! I rushed her out the play place gate, not bothering to put on my shoes (first mistake) and ran around the corner with her to the bathroom. Trying to dodge the dirtiest parts of the extremely dirty floor, I quickly chose a stall and tried to simply get her pants down so she could position herself over the squattie. That was my second mistake. It soon became evident that her clothes were going to have to come OFF--overalls and panties both, not just down around her ankles. I got her there just in time! Oh my, the things we'll do for our children! She was proud of herself but I was a little harried from the experience, not to mention my socks touching all of the unmentionables on the floor. Needless to say, my socks went straight into the dirty clothes hamper when we got home!
So we were gone a total of four hours (we ate lunch there too) and during that time Clara Anne needed to use the bathroom THREE times. This is unprecedented for her, and was truly a hassle for me since I needed to remove all of her clothes every time! I'm sorry to say that the third time we got there too late (thankfully I had another pair of undies) and that's when this mama decided it was time to be getting home.
Now I know why the locals use those split pants that I've mentioned before! It really would be easier not to have to undress them every time. Maybe I'll have to buy a pair. . . just kidding! There might be lots of things I'm willing to do for Clara Anne, but letting her wear split pants is not on that list. Next time, though, no overalls OR onesies! I learned my lesson!
Before I became a mother, I remember one seasoned mom telling me, "Yeah, before I had kids I thought it was so gross to have to clean up their dirty diapers and stuff. But now my attitude has totally changed--if I think my daughter is about to throw up, I run in front of her and cup my hands." That stuck with me as an example of the extraordinary things that moms will do for their children. I guess I'm learning that being a mom is being a servant leader. Probably I should be thanking Clara Anne for all these opportunities to humbly practice my servant leadership skills. But she's already asleep tonight, so in the meantime, I think I have some laundry to do. Good night!