For the second time during our celebratory dinner for my mother-in-law’s birthday at a local restaurant near our house, I had to rush to the bathroom with my four-year-old son, who had soiled his pants. Yes, the joys of parenthood!
The first time, I had to remove his underwear and forced him to sit on the potty but he said he didn’t have to go anymore. It was just an accident.
After letting him sit on the toilet for a little while, as I huffed and puffed and told him how upset I was because he is too big for these things to happen, I finally cleaned him up and we went back to the table.
|It was yummy!|
I knew this was going to be part two and didn’t take it too well. In fact, my blood started boiling since I had told him to go when we were in the bathroom the first time.
I told him he was going to have to wait because I was having dinner. But, then my wife gave me “the look,” that only those of us attuned to the Vulcan mind games of marriage can fully understand, and then I felt the sharp pain in my back, as she said, “Carlos, he has to go to the bathroom. I go with the girls when they have to go.”
Ok., I wasn’t about to start fighting in front of my mother-in-law or sour this happy family occasion because of my laziness and selfishness (although it crossed my mind), so I reluctantly got up and took my son to the bathroom AGAIN.
It was as I suspected. Already annoyed from the first time, I huffed and puffed some more, scolded him and made him sit on the toilet again, telling him, we weren’t going back until he finished doing his business.
He looked at me a bit dazed and confused and again insisted that he didn’t have to go anymore. In retrospect, maybe, I stunted his digestive system with the way I was reacting.
He said, “I’m sorry Daddy,” knowing very well that this is how he usually gets out of sticky situations. Despite his tender age, he already knows how to manipulate my wife and me with cuteness when he does something wrong.
However, I wasn't having anything to do with it this night. I just continued to huff and puff and berate him, as I washed his shorts in the sink and dried them with the hand dryer (It's stories like these that I'm sure make everyone a little more queasy about going into a public bathroom!).
What a fine example of the love, forgiveness and mercy that fathers are supposed to set, I’m sure.
After what seemed to be about half an hour, which was probably closer to ten minutes, during which time, sweat started accumulating in my forehead and run down my back from the heat of the hand dryer and lack of air circulation in the small room, I realized he wasn’t going to do anything. I cleaned him up again and went back to dinner.
It gets better.
After getting home late, relatively speaking, since our kids are usually in bed by 9pm and we were just getting home at that time, we started getting my son and our younger daughter ready for bed, as our older daughter finished her homework, which she left for the last minute as usual!
My wife says she’s just like me, and she might be right. Unfortunately, procrastination is my middle name. Meanwhile, my wife plans everything months ahead of time. She's already working on my older daughter's birthday party for January!
Anyway, I started running the water for my son’s bath and put him in while I went to put his dirty clothes in the hamper and prompt my seven-year-old daughter to get into the bathtub as well (we had to save time!).
All of a sudden I hear her yelling, “Yuck! He did caca in the bathtub!”
I stormed in to find the culprit, looking at me with a face of bewilderment, and holding a little gift in his left hand. How nice.
My already foul mood turned to outrage. I roughly pulled him out of the bathtub and gave him a sharp tap on his butt and sat him on the toilet again, as I continue to reprimand and telling him that big boys don’t do this. He just sat there crying, as I told my daughter to take a shower in our bathroom and cleaned up the mess in the bathtub. It was ugly.
I'm sure, a family counselor would have suggested I take a step back and count to ten before it got to this point but I wouldn’t have listened. I was too riled up by my toddler's inability to control his bowel (Is four still a toddler? Well, it sounds good anyway!).
After my outburst, I realized that I may have been overreacting a tad. For the most part, our son is pretty well behaved and, aside from an occasional accident because he's playing and doesn't want to stop, he's usually good about going to the potty when he has to. In fact, he's like the announcer at a royal ball, that yells out the arrival of a new guest, whenever he has to go.
Maybe, I had scared him. Maybe, he was suffering from the little “c” word. Whatever, it was, I wasn’t helping by ranting. So, I decided to do, what I sometimes tell my wife to do; relax (which, by the way, she absolutely hates me telling her!)
There's a popular phrase that says patience is a virtue. In fact, according to Christianity, it’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
It always amazes me how, often, God talks to us through people. Last Sunday, during the homily, one of our parish priests called patience the virtue that keeps families together. He said, without it, personal relationships within the family turn to bickering and strife and can lead to the destruction of the family.
On the heels of having lost my temper with my son, it’s a message that resonated with me.
After giving him a bath, putting his pajama on, helping him brush his teeth and putting him in bed, I noticed our seven-year-old had already fallen asleep.
Meanwhile, our older daughter was in the shower. So, I blessed the two little ones but, instead of praying with them, as I usually do (considering my son was the only child conscious in the room), I just said “Goodnight,” as I walked out of the room.
However, as I’m closing the door, I hear him say, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Bless us oh Lord, for these gifts… through Christ our Lord… Amen.” Sure, it was the mealtime prayer and he didn’t really know it but, without being prompted, he was praying on his own.
I felt a sense of humiliation and remorse for the way I had treated him.
Then, as I lay down in bed, it struck me. How many times do I mess up all over myself and God the Father have to clean me up?
Even more, despite the poor example I set for my son that night, God was still teaching me (by example) about love and mercy.
What an undeserved blessing that the most important responsibility I have in life (to raise Godly children), is happening in spite of me and evidenced in the simple prayer of a 4-year-old boy, who had just been put through the wringer by his old man…