So this morning, scant minutes after my little boy graciously left my bedroom so I could have a luxurious twenty-minute lie-in, I was propelled out of bed by my son screaming blue murder. It was so bad in fact, that my husband (who you may recall is disabled, and therefore couldn't get up quickly enough to do anything) was convinced Javier had managed to scald himself while washing his hands.
I careened through the living room to find Jav standing outside the bathroom, not scalded or even hurt (thank God), but in hysterics because he'd flooded the toilet and gotten water all over himself and half the bathroom floor.
My son hates making messes, at least big, unusual ones. He has no problem with jumping in puddles or getting ice cream on his face (though he wants to be cleaned up immediately, and I don't blame him). But if he falls in a puddle or drips ice cream on his shirt, it can make him really upset. The last time he'd been this freaked out about an accident was when he dropped a slice of pizza on the kitchen floor. Funnily enough, he reacted with such wild amguish at the time that Dom thought he'd burned himself then, too. So you probably can get a sense of the level of Jav's misery.
I scooped him up, grimacing mentally that now I had toilet water all over my own pajamas, and carried him to the grown-ups' bathroom. We showered together so I could clean him, since I was going to shower anyway. It still took a few minutes to convince my poor kid that it was okay. I must've repeated a hundred times that no one was angry, that it was just an accident and that mommy would clean it up. Javier kept sobbing, 'I'm sorry! I'm sorry!' like I was going to beat him. It broke my heart. I hope the violence of his reaction came from his perception that this was something truly horrible, and not from an actual expectation that he was going to be punished for it.
At least he calmed down quickly once he could readily understand that he was being cleaned up. He announced happily that, 'you didn't smack my bum!', which I hope to hell was just his way of confirming that, yes, he really hadn't done anything wrong, and not genuine surprise at my being merciful. I agreed that of course I didn't smack his bum, because it was an accident. Then I explained as carefully as I could that the potty overflowed because something got stuck in it, and that if it happened again he needed to tell mommy or daddy before he flushed more than once. Hopefully he got it, if only to save him more angst in the future.
Once we were both clean and dry, and I'd used four towels to mop up the water (all the while thinking to myself, pee is sterile! It's okay, it's sterile! because wow, yuck), I even demonstrated how to use the plunger. Javier wasn't terribly interested, however. He solemnly told me 'I need to watch Noddy', and went back to the living room.
I don't always think I do so well as a mother, but I have to admit I was pleased with how I handled things this morning. I have my own memories of overflowing toilets when I was a child, and while I honestly can't say if I was punished, I distinctly remember how much guilt I felt, and that I was afraid of my parents' anger about it. I knew I'd done something wrong.
I don't think that Javier came away from this feeling that he did something wrong. At least I hope to God not. I'm happy with myself because I was genuinely not angry, not just pretending not to be angry, and that I concentrated on Javier's need to be comforted, not on the mess. It was just a mess.
Writing about it now, though, I can't help wondering if I've managed to inadvertently pass on my own feelings about dirt and messes to Javier. I'm not a fanatic about neatness (you should see the general clutter in the kitchen on any given day, and the crumbs on the table), but I know I've told Jav that certain things were 'disgusting' more than once. Now I fear I've made him terrified of doing anything 'disgusting'. He still jumps in puddles and walks through mud with abandon, though, and some things simply are disgusting, like the time I found him mashing cat vomit into one of his toy cars. Or licking the sole of his shoe.
But he doesn't need my hang-ups, you know? God knows I've got enough of 'em.