By Heather Ijames
There's a little place downtown called The Archery Shop, where they do archery lessons on the first and third Saturdays of the month. When I called to sign the older one up, one of the instructors asked if I wanted to sign up my 4-year-old son, too.
My gut instinct was to ask about the store's liability insurance if they were willing to give my preschooler a weapon. Instead, I asked if they were sure a 4-year-old could handle a bow. They said they'd give it a try and that was that.
The way things work for me though, I knew my little one would get into some sort of trouble while at the store, all things archery aside. He's hard-wired for mishap that way. I never know what's going to happen, but I arrive in these situations with low expectations and armed with an arsenal of apologetic phrases for the aftermath.
We hadn't been there for all of two minutes when the little guy spotted the bathroom.
4-year-old: Momma, I gotta go to the bathroom.
4-year-old: Pleeeease! I have to go.
Me: No you don't. Stop it.
Another patron looked at me. Judging me as if I were abusing my kid's bladder. I'm not an amateur at this mothering business; we did our tinkles right before we left the house. He was good to go. And, what the other patron didn't know is my little guy thinks it's aces to explore any -- and I mean any -- new bathroom available to him. Why? Because he likes to run water. He doesn't get in it, he doesn't splash it around, he doesn't make a mess, he just wants to plug a drain, fill the water and then find something buoyant so he can play "boats." If you don't believe me, ask a few of my friends who have found my guy in their master bathrooms during birthday parties, filling up their tubs.
Patron . . . judging.
Me: You just went at the house. I know what you want to do, and no, this is not the place to play with the sink.
By now, my son knew I was getting the stink eye from the other customer.
4-year-old: It hurts, I have to go!
Me: For the love of . . . Fine, go, but don't lock the --
He locked the door.
More people started trickling into the archery store for lessons. I told my oldest to get his brother out of the bathroom. He went to the door and shouted out at his younger brother.
8-year-old: Get out. Mom said.
4-year-old: I can't! I don't know how to unlock the door.
8-year-old (shouting out at me now): Mom. He's locked in the bathroom. I'm not helping him.
I walked to the bathroom door.
Me: Open this door right now.
4-year-old: I can't. It's locked.
Me: That's why I tell you not to lock it! (Said through gritted teeth in a coarse whisper, lest I be judged. Further.) You're the one who locked it, so unlock it.
4-year-old: I can't! My hands are wet.
Me: So dry them off.
4-year-old: I can't! The paper towels are too high. I can't reach them.
Me: So use your pants.
4-year-old: But you tell me not to wipe my hands on my pants.
Me: Wipe your hands on your pants! (Said with my face pressed against the door.)
At that point, I decided it might not be such a bad thing to have him locked in the bathroom. I mean I was, after all, in a store brimming with deadly weapons. So the kid wants to play in the sink. Better that then an accidental misfire into someone's rear end, right? But the judging patron! From the other side of the door, I walked my son through the delicate and mind-shattering complication of turning the locking mechanism to his right, and presto! Freedom.
By the time it was his turn at this archery business, I was relaxed. He may be hard-wired for mishap, but one a day is his typical limit. Then, we discovered he really didn't have the upper arm strength to pull back a bow, making lessons a moot point. But hey, he learned how to unlock a bathroom door with wet hands, so the day was a win. I think.
-- Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian. You can send email to her at email@example.com. Next week: Inga Barks.