The sword, the bathroom and the pirate: a tale of parenthood

Published 12:51 am Tuesday, July 4, 2006

My son has the bladder the size of an English pea.

He also likes pirates.

These two seemingly diametrically opposed statements converged during one fateful incident in a restaurant bathroom.

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I have often written of my son’s bouts with bathroomitis. Bathroomitis is a malady that strikes early in life and usually affects boys in the three to five-year old age group. It is not a condition recognized by the American Medical Association, but it is surely experienced by fathers of young boys everywhere. The symptoms are easily detected and the condition is effortlessly diagnosed. During any restaurant visit, my son makes multiple trips to bathroom.

He might not need to go for hours while at home. But take him to a restaurant and he’s up every five minutes.

What does any of this have to do with pirates, you say? Read on, dear reader, read on.

My five-year old son chooses a favorite toy as some might choose a pair of underwear. It is a random procedure that usually involves picking up the first thing he sees in his toy chest or the toy nearest the back door on the way out of the house. No deep thought goes into the process and he likes it that way.

During a 48-hour period in June his favorite toy happened to be the Elite Operations Medieval Fantasy Sword, Barberia design, from Toys R Us, $5.95. Granted, an ancient Celtic sword is out of place in the world of pirates and buccaneers, but five-year olds don’t split hairs when playing games, it was the toy that was at the top of the pile when he was in search of a pirate weapon, and one sword is as good as another when forcing someone to walk the plank.

The sword is approximately 36-inches long and is made of hard, shiny plastic. If one didn’t know it was a harmless toy, it might look like an intimidating weapon. At a quick glance, it might even look like a real sword. In the hands of my son, a swashbuckling kindergartener, it can be the cause of much grief and embarrassment.

While driving my daughter to camp last month, we were to meet my mother-in-law, who was going to babysit the five-year old buccaneer for a week. The rendezvous point for the obligatory child trade off was a restaurant just off of the interstate in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

At this point I should note that when my son chooses his toy-of-the-moment, the choice is made and he doesn’t turn back. At least until the next toy catches his fancy. Nevertheless, the toy, whatever it may be, stays in his hands. He doesn’t let go. Whether it is a small rubber ball, a Star Wars action figure, a Sponge Bob pencil eraser, or a pirate sword, it goes everywhere with him. It is the parental path of least resistance. Better to let the boy keep his toy— whether in church or in a restaurant— than to deal with the alternative. As parents we choose our battles. His affection for the toy-of-the-moment is a battle we choose not to fight.

Back to the mother-in-law trade off.

So, we were in the rendezvous point making the exchange when the wannabe pirate was struck with his usual case of bathroomitis. I took him to the restroom, sword in hand, to do what needed to be done. Unfortunately it was a small restroom and there was only one stall, and what needed to be done, needed to be done in that stall. As fate would have it, the stall was occupied. I know this because my son said, “Look daddy, cowboy boots.” He had done as we all do— the universal method to make sure the stall door isn’t stuck and there’s actually someone inside— the-bend-down-and-peek-under-the-stall-door maneuver.

While waiting for the stall to empty, nature called. Daddy was struck with a case of bathroomitis and I went to the urinal to stand and do what one does at a urinal. While standing, I turned around to check on my son.

The boy was bent over with his arm reaching under the bottom of the adjacent stall. Unfortunately it was the arm that held the aforementioned pirate sword and he was waving it back and forth on the other side of the stall wall.

I was stunned for a moment and baffled to the point of speechlessness as I tried to figure out why my son was waving the sword under the stall. Then I remembered the cowboy boots.

For some strange reason the man on the other side of the stall wall remained silent. Maybe he was struck speechless as he sat in his most private of private moments, dumbfounded as a 36-inch sword appeared under the stall wall swishing back and forth cutting the air.

My son had a strange look on his face as he was up to his elbow in swordplay. It wasn’t a look of mischievousness, but rather a look of determination to try and make contact with whatever might be on the other side of the wall. To my knowledge he never did.

“Stop!” were the only words that would come across my lips. He looked up at me puzzled. It was a look that said “Why in the world would I stop doing this? It’s too much fun.”

I grabbed him and ran out of the men’s room, shoved him towards my mother-in-law and said, “Run! Good luck! See you next week!”

In conclusion, to the cowboy-boot wearing man who was nearly assaulted by the Elite Operations Medieval Fantasy Sword in the stall of the Shoney’s restaurant in Vicksburg, Mississippi, around noon on June the 3rd, 2006, wherever you are, just blame it on a chronic case of bathroomitis.