When school lets out, I wait on the playground with the other parents for my child to emerge in the sea of short people flooding from the double doors. In a rush of energy, we catch backpacks, jackets and artwork, and watch as our kids disappear to play on the playground, blacktop or woods behind the school. To be honest, moms love this time of day. The kids are all running off their extra energy with their friends and we get a chance to talk to other adults with few interruptions.
In the midst of conversation during this time, I was approached by another mommy friend who told me some girls were laughing that they just saw something funny in the woods. That something was my son peeing on a tree. I quickly excused myself from the group to find my son, the pee-pertrator. I pulled him aside and told him it wasn't okay to do that here on school grounds, and reminded him that private parts should be kept private. It wasn't much of a talk. He's a kid; he did something stupid; no real harm done, so I figured that was it.
The next day, I ran around like my usual crazy self during a day with a full schedule. My husband happened to be working from home that day, but I didn't see much of him since I was only home long enough to eat some lunch. When I finally returned home with my three kids, my husband greeted us at the door.
He looked at my son and told him to go to the bathroom. Since he has been potty trained for over four years, I gave him a raised eyebrow look of question.
"We got a phone call from the principal," he mouthed to me over the heads of our short people.
I hardly had enough time to register my look of shock before I heard my son's voice from the bathroom.
"Daddy," he asked, "why is there a tree branch in the bathroom?"
As a parent, you learn how to have full conversations in short-hand when children are present. My one son was questioning the stick by the sink while our other two were hanging around by our feet.
"The principal called?!" I mouthed in horror to my husband. (To be fair, it was the vice principal, but he didn't know that.)
"About him going... in the woods," came the whispered reply.
"Oh, that," I answered. Then it was my turn to receive the look from him.
"That?! You didn't tell me about that," he retorted.
"I talked to him about private stuff remaining private. I thought it was done," I explained.
"Well, apparently, it wasn't," he managed to get out before our son questioned him again.
We heard our nature-lover from the other room, "Hey Daddy, why is this big branch in here?"
Not missing a beat from our abbreviated adult conversation, my husband walked back to the bathroom where I heard him deliver this gem:
"What, the branch? I put that in there 'cause I thought it would make you feel comfortable. I hear you like to go in the woods."
He then had a talk with our son about the wheres, whens, whys and hows of appropriate man-woods bathroom experiences. I went upstairs and got our daughter into her pajamas and brushed her teeth. Part of me was shaking my head at how lightly he approached the whole situation. The other, larger part of me was very grateful that he was home, not only to field the phone call from the vice principal, but also to talk to our son about the whole thing. Sure, he's a guy, so he gets it more and can explain practical things better than I could, but his sense of humor is really helpful when I can get a little crazy about things like visits to the office at school.
So I let my husband handle our little woodland creatures while I went out to a moms' mixer for my son's grade. After a glass of wine, we laughed about having boys and husbands, and surviving them both. Sometimes all you need is shared perspective to appreciate all that you're lucky enough to have. My girlfriends laughed multiple times at the story of my husband's branch in the bathroom with my son. None of us would ever have dreamed up that approach to the whole situation. They reminded me how much I love and appreciate my husband's sense of humor and that I shouldn't be overly horrified at my son's answering the call of nature among the natural elements.
I could stand to take a page from my husband's parenting handbook and be a little less stick in the mud and a little more timber in the toilet.