Why my children cleaned a disgusting toilet
“We need to talk about your kids.”
This opening line is never followed by good news. Never.
Their frazzled ice skating instructor pulled me aside and told me my kids could no longer remain unattended after their lessons as they had for many months without incident.
I didn’t ask why. I didn’t need to.
On the way out I mentioned it to nine-year-old Patrick. “So what happened?” I asked. “Your instructor seems very upset.”
“Oh, nothing much,” he responded. “I put Lulu’s jacket in the sink and got it wet so she put my jacket in the toilet. I got mad and then I put her jacket in the toilet too.”
I’m not sure whether I was more shocked by their behavior or the bacterial minefield that my children had become, but I stopped in my tracks.
“You did WHAT?! You were PLAYING IN THE TOILET?! And you were doing this AT YOUR LESSONS?!”
There are no parental guidelines for this one. Google “nine-year-old playing in the toilet” and you’ll receive no relevant results. Drop it down to “seven-year-old playing in the toilet” and two disturbing results will come up, but since they’re nearly a decade old they’re irrelevant. (RIGHT?)
So yeah, I broke the rules. I looked at my kids as though they were COMPLETE F’ING MORONS, and to be honest it's pretty much exactly what I thought of them at that particular moment.
“No talking on the way home. Not one word,” I said. Lulu, aka "Toilet Tinkerbell" understood and was completely mute for the drive home. Patrick, aka "Commode Commando", started to object—“But Mummy”—and was quickly shut down—"No." I needed twenty minutes of silence to process the scenario—the drenched Petri-dish jackets I had unwittingly handled, the lapse of judgment by both of them and the proper way to handle the whole shebang.
Privileges for the next day—the coveted weekly iPad time and the unscheduled but predictable Sunday hookup with neighborhood friends —bye-bye. They knew they had messed up and had foreseen the immediate flushing of their electronic and social time. No surprises there.
What was missing was the empathy part. They clearly felt sorry for themselves, but what about feeling bad for the people who had to clean up after the great "Bacterial Splash Fest"?
I considered calling my mum, who if nothing else would be equally horrified, but suddenly it came to me. The kids need to understand what it’s like to clean up after someone else’s toilet mess. One quick trip to the store sans my little splashers and I was prepared to set the scene.
Patrick was called in first and we had a chat about respecting other people and the jobs that they perform. The duties of the custodial staff were discussed, and I told him he was going to learn to clean up a toilet mess. The proper use of (all-natural) toilet cleaner and a toilet brush were covered, as were the millions of unseen bacteria found in “clean” toilet water. So far so good.
“Picture perfect” best describes the expression of shock and horror when he raised the toilet lid. Awaiting a thorough scrubbing was a toilet bowl generously dripping with thick brown goo—otherwise known as Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.
He (very) begrudgingly learned to scrub with patience and persistence as the ebony ickiness smeared, smudged and mixed with the toilet water to create a cocoa-scented sludge. It collected on the bottom, requiring several additional scrubs and flushes. Ten minutes later the bowl was sparkling and Commode Commando clearly understood that his mess had impacted others.
The "Chocolate Shocker" was restaged for Toilet Tinkerbell, who initially noted the unusually yummy bathroom aroma (I'm not kidding). She opened the toilet cover, briefly stared in disbelief and proceeded to tackle the goopy toilet bowl.
With a twice-cleaned toilet behind us, we then chatted about proper toilet-cleaning hygiene and the many reasons that dunking clothing into the toilet was such a bad idea. More importantly, we discussed the mess—albeit smearless and chocolate-free—that they had left for the staff and then sat down to write notes of apology. They were provided with the salutation (“Dear Ice Skating Staff”) and the basic topics to cover:
- What they had done
- Why it was wrong
- A description of the mess they had made
- An apology
Apart from the brief outline very little coaching was required and their short-but-sincere apology notes will be delivered to their instructors during next week’s lesson.
They won’t be wearing jackets next week, though. Just in case.