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Never Let Your Toddler Out of Sight in a Public Bathroom

Ahhh, yes, the old "wash your hands in a urinal full of pee" trick.

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The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.

My 18-month-old son loves water. He loves bath time, he loves the beach, he even loves washing his hands. The only thing he doesn’t love about water? Drinking it.

This summer has been a particularly hot one, so my wife and I have been working hard to get him to drink more water. After trying several different sippy cups, he finally settled on a water bottle that has a flip-top straw, very similar to the ones he sees us using. He was drinking water because we were drinking water, and he wanted to be like us!

“Great!” I thought, “problem solved!” But it only kind of worked. He would only drink water when we were also drinking. The solution? I just need to drink more water in front of him, I thought. Not only will it ensure my son’s hydration, but I’ll also get the additional water I probably should have been drinking all along.

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And so the game of copycat began. I would take a drink from my bottle, he would take a sip of his. He would turn the bottle upside down to pour some out to play with, I would turn it back up and we’d both take sips. This system was working perfectly. Except, as I would soon discover on a trip to Target, it had one glaring flaw.

On this particular afternoon, my wife was working as I enjoyed some quality father/son bonding time at the store. We roamed the aisles, tried on hats, and enjoyed the free air conditioning. As we were checking out, it hit me: I had to pee. I’m not talking like a casual, “Hey if we find a restroom, maybe I could stop in for a quick sec…” I’m talking, “If I don’t find a bathroom right now, I’m going to have a serious problem on my hands. And my pants.” In my quest to get my son to drink more water, I was drinking a lot more water, and I hadn’t thought this through.

I’ve been shopping with my son many times, but I’ve never had to use the bathroom while we’re out. I’m a grown-ass man and a responsible parent, I thought to myself, I’ll figure it out. So I frantically rushed to the bathroom with my son in my arms. The men’s room was empty. But I didn’t know what to do with my son. I looked around for one of those strap-in chairs for kids but came up empty. There was a fold-out changing station, but he’s big enough to roll right off of it. Finally, just before wetting myself, I had a stroke of genius: He loves water. I’ll turn the sink on for him.

“Hey buddy, check this out!” I said as I turned the sink on and splashed a little (sidenote: this did not help my situation). To my relief, he excitedly put his hands in the sink and began to splash. Meanwhile, I made it to the urinal in the nick of time, craning my neck back as I peed so I could keep an eye on him at the sink. When I finished, I washed my hands next to him, then made my way to the end of the row to the paper towels. As I was drying my hands I looked back at the sinks, and to my horror, he was gone. He had bolted over to the urinal and was gleefully splashing his hands in a fresh pint of my own urine. Full confession: I had not flushed. Lesson learned.

I carefully picked him up and brought him back to the sink where I gave him a good cleaning, but he fought me all the way. All he wanted to do was play in the urinal. He had no concept of germs, or urine, or why that was so disgusting. He just wanted to splash. In his Dad’s pee.

Brandon Shaw is a writer, musician, and father.