His potty training fell directly in line with a family vacation to Florida.
I wouldn’t have planned it that way but the trip was an unexpected opportunity to see the ocean for the first time, which was my lifelong goal.
Optimistic that our potty training was going well enough to brave a 19-hour road trip, we packed up the Jeep and headed south at 4 o’clock in the morning with the baby carelessly sucking on a bottle in his carseat, and three-year old Connor in a pair of green and white Incredible Hulk undies.
I didn’t even pack pull-ups.
And I have no good argument for why I did that other than the whole trip was a learning experience.
Traveling across five states, we learned regional culture through gas station bathrooms — and it basically went the same way every time.
“Connor, do you need to go potty?”
He was never sure.
“Oh, well. Maybe.”
I made him stand in front of the potty until at least a few tinkles came out. We clapped at his accomplishment each time, and I was proud that he was still dry.
But there was no sign of number two.
At a gas station outside of Chattanooga, I stood beside him and suggested he sit on the potty this time. He shook his head.
"It's Thursday, Mommy.”
I looked at him, completely dumbfounded. He just shook his head again.
"I don't poop on Thursday."
He shrugged his shoulders like there was nothing he could do about it. It was apparently some kind of upper management decision.
First of all, it was a bright and sunny Tuesday afternoon. Second of all, I was upper management and recalled nothing about the institution of a no-poop Thursday.
“Well, it’s only Tuesday, so let’s just sit on the potty and try. Maybe you can go anyway.”
He shook his head with a hard no. I simultaneously nodded a hard yes, pulled down his pants, and stuck him on the toilet seat.
His feet kicked and his mouth formed the scream building up in his belly, which once released, ricocheted around the bathroom walls.
“No! I NO POOP ON THURSDAY!”
Expecting Tennessee child services to charge through the locked door, I pulled him off the pot and we marched back to the car without words. We arrived to Chattanooga where we planned to stay for the night, and drove right past one of my husband’s favorite places.
He slowed down. “Wonder what that Home Depot has?”
I shook my head at him.
“Probably the same stuff all the other ones have.”
“Except this one is in Tennessee.”
Turns out that was the only thing different about this Home Depot. It looked exactly like ours.
“Oh look,” I pointed out. “They have barbecue grills.”
Sarcasm (and overpriced restaurant food) is my love language.
Then it caught my eye.
On the other side, a row of toilets were elevated on a platform. Right smack in the middle, on the oversized king throne, I found my tiny son barely sitting on the edge with his pants around his knees.
“Oh no! That’s not a bathroom.”
My feet carried me across the store and suddenly the chaos of a Tuesday afternoon was silenced by my racing heart and utter fear that, after months of begging him to poop on the potty, my son was just about to crap in a display toilet in the middle of Home Depot.
I watched him sweetly wave to a few onlookers and then contort his face into what I was sure was a grunt.
“Connor!” I screamed. “It’s Thursday! It’s Thursday!”
The closer I got, the worse the smell was. I was unsure if I would just throw him over my shoulder and run out of the store never to be seen again, or if I would grab some things from the cleaning supply section and take care of the mess myself.
Then right there in the toilet section - next to the sign boasting new heated seat technology — a hallelujah chorus from above began to sing as I discovered his green and white Incredible Hulk undies still covering the lower half of his body.
And for the first time in the history of motherhood, I shouted from the rooftops.
“Praise the Lord! He pooped in his pants!”