Pause It

My kid refuses to pee because he thinks he might miss something awesome while in the bathroom. The logic is sound I guess. Long ago, I had a girlfriend who peed with the door open during a party so as not to lose her place in the conversation. In her defense, the bathroom was adjacent to the dining room and we were all close friends and very drunk. If an adult did that in my house now, I would assume she was having a psychotic break and attempt to fence her off somehow so she couldn’t harm my family.

I’m the opposite of my son and ex-girlfriend. I go to the bathroom because I want to miss things. I use it as an excuse to breath, look at myself in the mirror, and psych myself up to go back out and talk to people. I once “peed” forty-seven times at a wedding reception. But I’m an only child with “social issues.” A four year-old is bursting with enthusiasm about people, and becomes frustrated when the inconveniences of biology force him to put his party back on the hook or chain, or whatever wild parties are “off of” these days.

It drives me insane when he won’t pee. Maybe I’m jealous of his social fervor (“Don’t you want to pee so you can be alone for a minute?”). But I understand that in the 90 seconds it takes a 4 year-old to use the bathroom, a friend might appoint him “Evil lord bad guy” or “Barf face”, and I bet that’s a really depressing thing to come back to. At the same time, I know having a full bladder is uncomfortable and often causes people to become fussy and make hasty decisions. Would you want Barack Obama to decide whether to attack Syria while hopping around with his legs crossed because he has to pee so badly? No, you’d want him to relieve himself so he could return with a calm focused reserve, take a deep breath and tackle issues of national security without distraction. “Mr. President, might I suggest that you use the restroom before signing this executive order?”

I can’t request, suggest, command or order my son to pee — he simply denies the need and continues to wiggle about the room. This is where my wife, the child whisperer, comes in. In her brilliance, she understands that we can’t force a human being to pee. Instead, we must create a situation in which he feels comfortable being absent for a moment. Now to get him to pee, we play the pause game. My wife says, “Everyone! Silas has to pee! Pause it!” and we immediately become motionless in an action pose as if we’d been working as fruit vendors in Pompei when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. We stay like that until he returns, and then all go back to drawing on a box, making Play Doh burritos or taking DVDs out of their cases and hiding them behind the sofa.

Of course, it’s really only my wife and I who participate. Our two-and-a-half year-old stands there confused and disoriented, wondering what the hell is wrong with us. Sometimes, he plays along, but has no idea why. I’m  glad it all works. I just wish my wife would warn me before yelling “pause it!” so I’m not frozen in place mid-jump. I’m kidding, I haven’t jumped in months.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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