Little Spouse On The Prairie: Delayed Gratification

Aug 18, 2018

Some people take using the restroom in peace for granted.  Before I had kids, I never gave much thought to expelling my own waste.  In fact, multitasking was often a natural pairing with using the restroom.  I could mentally compose a grocery list, for example, while simultaneously doing my business. 

Now that I have three children and a husband who always seems to need advice on how to fix the hole in his bucket, I’ve discovered that using the bathroom is a signal to the rest of my family they need me desperately.  If I ever feel unloved or unneeded, I can trigger a fix easily: Head to one of the six bathrooms in our home. You’d think with that many, I could sneak away, but I can’t be gone from my family long enough to use one of them!  On the other hand, if I’m cleaning one of them, I’m on my own. 

Here’s how it goes:  I’ve been putting off using the restroom to the point that my bladder feels as if someone hooked my urethra to a tap and created a water bomb out of it.  I glance around surreptitiously.  Teen is comfortably ensconced in her room with her phone, middle schooler is engaged in a 4000-plus piece Lego set, five-year-old is watching a cartoon, and husband is AWOL.

I spend a few seconds on pre-assessment.  If I use the master bath, I may run into Joel or the unpleasant evidence that he was recently there. I’d rather not use the guest bath, because we’re having people over tomorrow and I don’t feel like cleaning it again, though if I’m the one using it, at least there won’t be yellow streaks on the wall behind the toilet. The kids’ bathroom is way out of bounds because (A) it’s disgusting and (B) my teenager may burst in. 

Since I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable, I make a decision:  I’ll use the bathroom off the kitchen.  I’ve barely locked the door when it happens.  “MOM?”  “MOM?”  MOM!!!!!!!!!!!”  Despite having held my urine all afternoon waiting for the right moment, the screams coming from outside the door sound so agonized, I’m unable to alleviate what, five minutes ago, was an impending crisis. 

I unlock the door and run toward the wails.  It’s my 12-year-old son.  He’s spread-eagled on the floor, surrounded by 4976 Lego pieces.  I slide in close on about a 12-carat piece of very hard plastic. Did you know that since the invention of the Lego brick, there are now two things that can cut diamonds?   

“Oh, lord!  Dashiell!  Are you all right?”  My phone is in my hand in a heartbeat, 911 typed in.

I kneel by my second born’s side, paying no heed to the agony of the tiny bricks embedding into my knees (yet conscious, even in that traumatic moment, of the logic behind the old-school punishment of forcing naughty kids to kneel on rice). I search for physical signs of what was an obviously terrible accident. Tears are running down the sides of his face and he chokes out, “Can you help me, Mom? Please? I . . . can’t . . . find . . . a clear two-by-two.  Please.  It’s all I ask.”

Relief and rage mingle in the pit of my stomach, or is that merely the discomfort resulting from holding in three cups of urine?  I frantically paw through 4975 wrong pieces, before picking what I believe to be a clear two-by-two out of a deep crevasse in my left foot. While examining that foot, I also find a smooshed fruit snack and the earring I lost last week.  I hand the elusive piece off and race back to the restroom.

This time, there will be no interruption.  I don’t care if someone requires stitches. They’ll have to wait until I use the toilet.  Maybe we can get a two-for-one discount at the ER since it appears my left foot requires medical attention.

Psychologists say delayed gratification links to a host of positive outcomes:  social competence, psychological health, success, and happiness in general.  I’m living proof that they’re right.  The utter joy that accompanies my, ahem, shall we say, “relief,” is so intense that I’m almost glad I waited as long as I did.  And, if I hadn’t had this experience, I would have probably never located that missing earring. 

Tune in to High Plains Public Radio at 8:35 this Sunday morning during Weekend Edition. Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie or on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera.