Monday, January 6, 2014

The Great Equalizer

This holiday season, I drove over 2,000 miles with my 3 kids to celebrate with family. This means we experienced all of the joys of road trip travel, and I had an epiphany on the last day. We had stopped for  an ice cream / bathroom break in some middle of nowhere town. I usually take the kids to the bathroom in shifts -- in random order: baby gets new diaper, 3-year old pees and/or poops and changes possibly wet underpants or may get a pull-up, 5-year old pees and/or poops. Mommy gets to go somewhere in the shuffle if she's lucky. This routine is repeated approximately every 3 hours on a road trip, which means lots of public bathroom visits.

My epiphany was this: the public restroom is the great equalizer of all moms. I realized this at the middle of nowhere ice cream shop as I entered the bathroom with one of my kids (I forget which one). There was a mother changing her daughter on the changing table. Her little girl was at that oh-so-fun age -- probably over 1 -- you know, a little too big for the changing table but not quite old enough to stand to be changed? (Note to self: Invent changing station for toddlers. Make millions.) Two of my senses (sight and smell) told me immediately that the girl had pooped. There were other children in the restroom as well, running amuck through the stalls. She tried to control / reprimand them as she cleaned her child, speaking in Spanish.

I smiled at this mother. I wanted to help. I only had 1 child in the bathroom with me because I was lucky enough to have help watching the others. So many other times, however, I have been in her position -- with all of my kids, in a bathroom, trying to corral them, clean them, contain them. And it is a BATHROOM of all places. The only place where the thought of my kids touching stuff is grosser than changing the actual poopy diaper. I did not offer to help -- 1, because I don't speak fluent Spanish, and 2, because I am a random stranger. But I saw her and immediately empathized with her. And that is when I realized that the public bathroom is our great equalizer. Here was a woman who lives in a different part of the country than I do and speaks a different language than I do to her children, and I am just like her.

You can walk into a public bathroom with a Michael Kors bag on your shoulder or a purse you found at Good Will. Either way, there inevitably won't be a hook for it (Note to self: Campaign for all restroom doors to have hooks. Win award.)... And you will have to put your bag on the floor before pulling your toddler's pants down. Your 2-year old will sit on the potty for 5 minutes singing and touching way more of that toilet than you can stomach. No mom is better than the other in here. We are all saying, "Can you go? Are you done? Are you sure? Is there more? Don't touch it!"

To the mom in the random ice cream shop in the faraway town: We're all with you.

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