Thursday, October 18, 2007

How long is too long in the bathroom?

My partner had the nerve to tell me not to take long using the bathroom one morning. “I mean, don’t make a vacation of it,” she said.

Normally, using the bathroom takes as long as it takes. But life changes after having kids, and with a toddler and a 4-year-old in the house, I’m willing to stretch any chance for some alone time as long as possible. I’m a woman, but I finally understand the stereotype of a man taking the newspaper into the bathroom. It is the one room with a locking door, and it gives you an undisputable excuse to scream for the other parent when there is a commonplace emergency.

In fact, now that I think of it, having kids has explained a lot of mundane mysteries for me.

For instance, all my life, I rigorously walked the grocery cart back up to the store after emptying my purchases in my car. Carts littering the parking lot were a puzzlement to me, and I must confess to unkind thoughts about lazy grocery shoppers. But the first time I shopped with a baby, I unloaded the bags into the car, strapped the baby in her car seat, and stood staring at the grocery cart as if I had never seen one before. Really, was I supposed to disembark the baby, walk us both back to the store, and then both back to the car again? That wasn’t going to happen after an hour trying to make meal decisions with a screaming, wriggling, unhappy infant annoying shoppers throughout the store. I didn’t think the store personnel would enjoy seeing us back at the entrance again so soon anyway. That’s why bag boys walk people out to the car, so they can bring the cart back, I thought. But I really didn’t want to make small talk with a bag person (no offense, small talk with anyone is taxing under the circumstances) either. So right there, I got lazy and hurried away from the evidence.

The grocery store seemed to hold a concentration of mysteries. The pile of unwanted items at the register baffled me before kids. Did people really put stuff in their carts and then decide against them at the last minute? Marshmallows, fruit bars, and the occasional beauty item sat unclaimed and unbought, crowding the tiny space before the conveyor belt. It took awhile, until my first child had a sufficiently long reach and quick grab to pull random brightly colored packages off the shelf and into the cart before I had to stand at the check out wondering why on earth I, a vegetarian, had canned ham among the contents. Then I saw Sara swipe a Milky Way off of the display and had to sneak the unwanted ham onto the People magazine display, whistling innocently.

Kids are wonderful; I love my two little precious ones, wouldn’t trade them for the world. But I have to admit that I never could have imagined the many revelations, both grand and minute, that they would bring to my life.

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