Pesto Al Bano

There are things you swear, as a parent, you’ll never do.

Then there are the things you can’t swear you’ll never do because it would never enter the mind of any sane person that you–or anyone–would ever consider doing them.

Setting the table for dinner in a bathroom is one such thing.

Let me back up. MJ still isn’t pooping in the potty. I don’t want to make a big deal about it or anything, and if she ever, later in life, reads this blog I want her to know I am utterly at peace with her decision to stay in diapers until, well, even puberty, if that’s where she wants to go with it. As for the fact that, when she does poop, it’s invariably just when we’ve sat down to dinner? And takes an hour? I won’t even bring it up.

Except for here, where my impatience and infrequent exasperation must be allowed the occasional, um, expulsion, if you will.

Anyway. This morning it was Myra-Jean who brought it up. By suggesting that, when it was dinner time, she’d like to try something new. In her words: “We’ll bring a table to the toilet. I’ll sit at it and eat. And at the same time? Poop.”

Once I had adjusted my face appropriately I turned and responded “on the potty?”


“While…you’re eating dinner?”


I wrote it off as an insane fantasy.

Fast forward to tonight. I’d forgotten about it completely, and come home with MJ from a long day of activity–the library, ballet class, Trader Joes. So tired, both of us. The plan was: quick dinner, no bath, one book, bed.

I had just poured pasta into boiling water when I saw Mike–who was supposed to be leaving for a Dodgers game–walking towards the bathroom with a pile of blocks.

“Don’t start playing with her now,” I called, poking at my penne with a wooden spoon. “It’s dinner time.”

Mike stopped, turned, and stuck his head into the kitchen conspiratorially. “She wants to eat at the toilet,” he said. “I’m adjusting the table.” Then he was gone.

I stood, my head cocked, spoon hanging down stupidly. This was really happening? Now?

Look. I don’t mean to be a naysayer. It’s just, the thing is, first, it was late. Second, I was tired. Third, I was starving. Fourth, I knew that, if MJ was going to eat and attempt to poop in the potty for the first time, not only was it going to take forever, but I would have to join her. In eating, that is. For MJ will not sup alone. That is a hard and fast rule.

Trepidation writ large across my face, I headed for the bathroom. There I found MJ, sitting on the toilet in front of a small wooden table, which had been raised by the blocks to be more her height. On the table was a book about the solar system. MJ leafed through the latter, idly jamming a strand of hair up her nose. When she heard me come in she looked up, smiling.

“Did you bring our dinners?”

“Not yet,” I sighed. “Are you really going to try this?”

“Of course!”

I went back to the kitchen, muttering to myself irately. “Be up all night…off to the Dodgers game…never going to happen…”

Gathering two plates of pesto, plus forks, napkins, a bowl of mini carrots, a glass of juice, and a saltshaker, I headed back to the bathroom and laid everything out. Then, picking up my own plate I said “do you suppose I could just…eat in the hall?”

MJ’s eyebrows veed, astonished and hurt. “But I need you to be with me.”

So much for that. Placing my plate on the table, I lowered myself onto the shower ledge. Immediately my butt was soaked. Better and better. Reminding myself that childhood is precious and fleeting, I pulled my meal towards me. I was famished. I was wiped. I was looking at a kid on the john. I could do this.

“Bon appetite!” MJ sang.

I took a bite. Then shook my head. Cognitive dissonance. I couldn’t avoid it. There’s a reason people don’t eat in bathrooms. This was wrong. This was taboo. This was gross. If she actually pooped, on the other hand? In the toilet, finally? Jesus. The victory. The milestone! The savings in diapers! We could always wean her off  the table later, I supposed. And the food, of course. If this was what would get it done, how could I say no?

“Bon appetite,” I answered, faintly.

MJ ate with gusto, simultaneously grating baby carrots with her front teeth and talking about–what else?–defecation and urination. It seemed endlessly fascinating to her. “Dogs like to poop first and then pee.”


“Cats? Pee first. Owls. Poop. Daddy? I’m not sure…”

“Me neither,” I muttered, as I choked down a bite of kale. What would happen if MJ actually started pooping? I couldn’t stay here. No way. I mean, I support her, and everything. I love her. It’s unconditional. I want her to be potty trained. Fervently. But this? This was too much. I couldn’t go through with it. It would ruin pesto for me forever. As for the kale, it was pretty much ruined already. I’d neglected to season it.

There was a tinkling sound. I put down my fork.

MJ smiled theatrically. “That felt good.” She shoved green noodles into her mouth.

I pushed my chair back. Then remembered I didn’t have one. The shower ledge hulked damply, immovable. “I don’t believe this,” I muttered.

Myra-Jean, ignoring me, reached for her milk. And knocked her carrots to the floor.

“Pick them up!” she screeched. “I want them!”

“Hold on,” I groaned, reaching down.

As I turned on the cold water tap and doused the skinless, orange nubs, I suddenly saw myself–as if from the outside. A crazy person, rinsing carrots–probably coated in e-Coli from the bathroom floor–in a sink that hadn’t been cleaned in, well, a while, in order to return them to her currently dining and soon-to-be-defecating daughter. It was so. Very. Wrong.

“Have you started yet?” I asked MJ, holding the carrots behind me in one fist.

“Pooping?” there was a pause. “I don’t actually have to,” she said, looking somewhat sheepish.

“Oh, honey. That’s fine. That’s great.” I stood up. Picking up our two plates I walked into the dining room, calling back: “I’m in here. With our food.”

“I’ll join you,” she said brightly.

A moment later she appeared with her skirt back on and hopped up into her chair.

“Did you wash your hands?”

She had. And we ate. At the table. Like normal people.

As for the potty? I’m proud of her for trying. And I told her so.

I also reminded her there’s always breakfast. Maybe we’ll both get our appetites back by then.


3 thoughts on “Pesto Al Bano

  1. Jeff McElroy

    These are the entries that make you the excellent writer that you are. You connect with people on a very intimate level. Your unabashed honesty sets you apart from the pack!

  2. Pingback: Throwing the Book At It | thumbstumbler

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