Sarah R. Callender

Etiquette

In General, Parenting on May 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Buddy has been peeing in our backyard.

Just the other day, in fact, he was playing soccer, practicing the new moves he’s been learning in this very cool soccer clinic. If you can visualize Riverdance with a soccer ball, that’s what Buddy was doing. Until he suddenly stopped and took a whiz on the big pine tree in our yard, the one that will kill us if it ever falls on our house.

But the target of his aim is not my issue. My issue is Buddy’s choice to pee on the tree on a sunny weekend afternoon when there’s a regular, indoor toilet just twelve feet away (as the crow flies).

“Hey!” I said, clapping like a persnickity old lady claps when she’s sitting inside her house and she wants the hooligan kids on the block to stop whatever trouble-making, shananiganing nonsense they’re doing. “Hey!” I barked. “Stop that peeing!”

Actually, this is a lie. It was HUSBANDIO who saw Buddy peeing on the tree. He just told me about it when I got home from wherever I was. And I don’t think he clapped like a little old lady, but I can’t ask him what he did because he’s on an airplane right now, one without wifi. I do know that Husbandio was ticked off because he doesn’t want the peppers and tomatoes and cucs and onions that he has lovingly nurtured from seed to be watered with his son’s urine. Which I understand completely.

Regardless, I’m going to pretend it was I who witnessed the peeing. I am, after all, a fiction writing bullshooter so it shouldn’t be too hard. Unlike some writers, however, the ones who forget to tell you when their non-fiction is actually fiction, I will always let you know when I am lying. You have my solemn promise.

So there I am, standing inside, clapping and yelling, “Hey! Hey, YOU! Stop that peeing!” (remember, this is a lie) only Buddy doesn’t hear me because he’s probably humming the theme song to Riverdance. He just pulls his pants up and goes back to his ball juggling. So to speak.

Now, let me preface this by saying our backyard is about nine feet big. (Another lie, but again, I’m not trying to dupe you; that’s just a technique called “understatement.” Some writers use it for effect. I use it because I don’t feel like trudging outside with my tape measure, so it’s better to underestimate in an exaggerated way so you know I’m not going for accuracy).

Maybe I’d feel different about Buddy’s peeing if we lived, instead, on ten acres. Frankly, I’m pretty sure if we lived on ten acres, I might, on occasion, pee outside too. And that’s no lie. I also feel it’s fine to use nature’s loo while hiking or camping or during any elimination emergency when there’s no man-made loo in sight.

But we are fortunate to have a few loos on site and in sight. Nor do we live on ten acres.

So today, as I’m writing about Buddy peeing in the yard, I’m trying to figure out what bothers me so much about seeing (i.e. hearing Husbandio tell me about) Buddy’s public pee.

Of course, I know this is just a perfect example of an eight-year-old kid who doesn’t want to stop whatever fun he’s having, go inside, take off his shoes, take a tinkle, thoroughly clean up the errant pee drops that get all over the seat and floor*, wash his hands, dry his hands, carefully fold and replace the hand towel that he has pulled from the towel rack*, go put his shoes back on, then continue with Riverdance FC. (Those two asterisks do not denote a lie, nor is it a literary technique. They are purely and simply examples of a mother’s wish.)

BUT (I’m sure Buddy thinks) if he can just stop his soccer skills, pull down his pants, pee, pull up his pants, and carry on with soccer skills, he loses no momentum. Because it’s all about momentum. And flow. And not breaking the flow of a perfect soccer skills practice or the perfect game of Flyers or tag or Death Gun Blasters just because his bladder’s feeling a little taut.

But isn’t it a little icky to pee in broad daylight in one’s backyard, for all the world (potentially five neighbors, truth be told) to see? If I don’t teach him that peeing in the backyard is not OK, then might he not start peeing in the backyards of others? Might he not take a whiz under the monkey bars at recess? Out in center field during his next baseball game? On Skyline Express at Stevens Pass? Is public, outdoor urination not a slippery slope? Maybe that’s what I fear: a urine-soaked slippery slope.

Or perhaps my distaste for backyard urination is actually thickly veiled jealousy.

After all, Buddy can take a pee with the greatest of ease. It’s how his body’s built, unlike the female body that’s not overly-convenient in the Great Outdoors. Sometimes not so convenient in the Great Indoors either. Please don’t make me explain the inconvenience of my very own postpartum body every time I’m doing jumping jacks or “skaters” or jumpy things in my favorite class at the gym.

In fact, when that happens, and I have to stop and leave the class, and go sit on the toilet for what seems like ten minutes because for some reason NOW my bladder’s like, Hm. I’m not sure I really have to go anymore. And anyway, doesn’t it feel really good to be sitting? How’s about you and I just sit here for a while and catch our breath?, just like that, I lose all momentum.

So yeah, maybe I am a little jealous. But I also think peeing outside when there’s no emergent need is a little gross.

Just like I thought it was gross when, about six years ago, I was at a child’s backyard birthday party and I’m speaking to this woman I’ve never met before and she’s holding her six-month-old baby and suddenly she is unsnapping her baby’s onesie crotch snaps and the baby’s not wearing a diaper and then she’s holding him over the lovely potted annuals to my right (that’s a lie; she held him over some shrubby bushes to my left) making this hissing whispery angry-librarian sound like, psss, psss, psss, psss, and that apparently is the cue that her six-month-old son is supposed to pee in the host’s manicured flora.

OK. As someone who wrapped her children in “wearable toilets,” and yes, filled landfills with their elimination-soaked Pampers, I will behave myself and not comment on the diaperless baby movement, but I was more than a little disarmed. And grossed out. Even baby pee is pee, right? I suppose allowing your kid to pee in your own backyard is one thing. But in the middle of a birthday party? Did the host not feel a little, I don’t know, insulted?

Then of course, there’s the questionable etiquette of peeing while talking on one’s cell phone in a public restroom. My most favorite example of this happened whilst I myself was taking a little pre-movie tinkle at Metro Cinemas. Except that while I was sitting there, I realized I was listening to the tinkler on my left answer her cell phone and start AN OVER-THE-PHONE JOB INTERVIEW.

I know! I swear on my children’s lives that is neither lie nor hyperbole.

There I was, sitting there, muttering things like, “Seriously?” and “Are you KIDDING me?” to the interviewee.

Would there have been anything wrong with this woman just letting that call go to voicemail? Or, if she absolutely had to answer, couldn’t she have just said, “You know what, sir? I’m kind of in the middle of something. May I call you back in two minutes?”

Unless she was interviewing for some job that requires extreme multitasking . . . then I guess the interviewer likely hired her on the spot.

So what. Am I too prudish? Do I need to loosen right up, understanding that Boys will be Boys? That we live in an age where talking on a cell, in public, while peeing is OK? If you are part of the diaperless movement, is it OK to have your baby take a tinkle all over your host’s shrubs? If you are interviewing a potential client over the phone, and you hear the sound of toilets flushing in the background, does that bother you?

While I’m waiting for your responses, (and because I’ve been totally honest for at least two paragraphs), I’ll surrender to my inner bullshooter and show you the sign I made and hung on our chain link fenced back yard, just in case Buddy or Sweetie or any of their sweet hooligan friends feel the urge:

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  1. It seems that the Dutch are out in front of us on this one: Outdoor urinals.
    http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/5658595
    I’ve actually tried this once while in Amsterdam. Once you can convince your bladder that you’re not about to get nabbed by the cops for peeing outdoors, it’s quite liberating.

  2. Did you know that this ad is immediately under your post? (Ads by Google
    New Toilet Installed $160
    Great Flushing Power New Toilet Save Money and Go Green
    5cornersplumbing.com)

    I found that, and your entry, to be highly entertaining…!

  3. Does this mean I am going to have to watch him on play dates and potentially hose down all my plants? That might cost ya!

  4. Zach loves peeing outside, though we don’t (often) let him pee in our yard. If you are jealous of the ability to pee standing up, you should get one of these: http://www.go-girl.com/ – I actually have something like it, but it’s not as cute and with a less catchy name that I can’t remember. It’s handy for cross-country skiing and hiking. I still don’t pee in my yard, though.

  5. My Dear Sarah,
    While I agree with you that Buddy should not be peeing on large trees in your backyard for many to witness, I am not opposed to peeing in public. I am highly frightened of public bathrooms and have pee’d and pee-assisted my children in many parking lots, city parks, t-ball and baseball fields all over town. Maybe you should just send Buddy to the tree on the corner, you know the city owned one…

  6. Oh, yes, we let them pee at will whenever and where ever they happen to be. Ok, that’s a lie.
    It’s pretty easy to wrap my head around the notion that urine is sterile. However, it’s hard to shake that emotional ick factor. I don’t actually want to come in contact with other people’s pee. Both of my boys have gone through peeing in the yard stages when they were first potty training and after that initial powerful giddy period of being able to go in the bushes, both learned to hold it and get to the toilet. They still do it in the “wild” when necessary but I’d be pretty mortified if I found out either had done it in someone’s yard on a play date.

  7. Ahem. I have been sitting in a therapist’s office with my own darling for 2.5 years now, and this is how the problem breaks down. It’s all about BOUNDARIES. Repeat after me: BOUNDARIES. The little tykes must learn them in order to function in our very strange, prudish, hypocritical society (in which the only place that nakeness [only of the female body] is acceptable is in advertisements). I can tell you stories about gentlemen in my tyke’s past who have made a habit of public urination, and, believe me, you do not want your son to grow up to be like them. So when someone is on a cell phone on a toilet stall next to me, I flush, and flush, and flush. Now, when voiding is necessary and there is no bathroom nearby, then boundaries be damned, such as once on a motorcycle crossing a long stretch of desert highway. No trees, no car doors, just me and my large white derriere providing entertainment for the rest of the very bored people in passing cars. And the really cool thing is that while I squatted there, I noticed that someone had lost this really nifty all-in-one tool gismo, which we still use around the house.

    • Love this. Your last line made me laugh out loud. I have never found a lost all-in-one gismo, certainly not while peeing. You must have a lucky bladder.

  8. You know what? That mom who peed her baby on the bushes and/or annuals? She totally thought that one day you would blog about her, but she thought you would write about your deep shame upon realizing that you had brought about the planet’s early demise, to say nothing of purposely retarding your own children’s personal development by forcing them into traditional (probably patriarchal) models of Urination Management. Man, I wish I could see her face when she finds this instead. Awesomepants. Do you want me to send her a link?

    Also, you could look into pH needs of your many and varied plants and at least make Buddy useful…

    • YES! Please do send her the link. I’ll install some secret hidden cameras in her house so you and I can see her face. It shouldn’t be too hard.

      She was actually the topic of conversation at a friend’s b-day last night (for totally different reasons) and I had to really work hard not to tell the group that she was the mother in question. It’s so hard to be good.

      • I assume you install them in the loo?

        … and I’m a bit crushed to find out you’re Good. I was hoping just Goodish.

      • If I were Good, I wouldn’t have mentioned last night’s conversation. Not to worry, I’m definitely Goodish. 🙂

  9. Glad you’re back on the blog. I’ve missed seeing the world through your eyes. And I found the illustrated love formulas from my students. Happy to drop them in the mail. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, dear Laura. Oh, if you could drop those in the mail, that would be GREAT. Sorry for the hassle. I’m thinking they would make a great book trailer. 🙂

  10. I am on the floor in stitches. Literally. You have a beautiful gift! I love, love, love the way you write. If I were to try a witty post, it would take me a year to get it to the right level of funny. 🙂 Do your posts AUTOMATICALLY come out like that?! Send me some of that water you are drinking so I can contract the funny bug!

    • How kind, Tania! Thanks so much. My water has a bit of Zoloft, a bit of Riesling and a gallon of sleep deprivation. Not sure you want it! I really appreciate you reading AND commenting. What a treat for me. 🙂

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