When my children were younger the three of them would ride horses. In the summer their barn would have horse camp. My older two children were the camp counselors and my youngest daughter was a participant. Every morning the kids would meet with their trainer and she would give them their assignments. Each counselor was paired up with a participant and they would be assigned a new kid each morning. Now because my youngest was a participant, my older two were not allowed to be her counselor. My son didn’t get the easiest kids and eventually it was something we would laugh about.
To set this up, my son is an affable person with a great sense of humor. The trainer knows this and she tries the first day to pair him up with another boy at the camp. In horseback riding there is a surprising few number of boys. The trainer’s thought was that the boys would work well together and that the younger boy would bond with his older boy mentor. They were doing great. My son says to the trainer “He has to use the bathroom, what do I do?” My son is young at around eleven or twelve years old.
The trainer says “Take his pony in and put it on cross-ties and wait for him until he is finished.”
My son nods and the two boys head into the barn. I sit outside and watch the festivities, I am there simply to have another adult on campus in case of emergencies. Its a great policy, safety first. The boys are in the barn for an unusually long time. The trainer says to me, “Can you go in there and see what’s taking so long?”
I agree and at the same time another group needs to go in to use the bathroom too. I walk in with the other group and my oldest daughter and her kid also come up behind us because once one kid has to use the bathroom they all do. We walk into the barn and hear a flustered counselor talking to his kid through the bathroom door. I walk quickly over to my son and he looks as if he is about to lose his shit. My son is not a “lose his shit” kind of a person.
I ask “What’s going on?”
My son turns bright red and say quietly “hewantsmetowipehisbutt!”
I was like “What?”
Then I hear a small voice from inside of the bathroom that says “I can’t reach.”
My son with all of his composure about to bust says, much like an aerobics instructor “WELL SSSSTTTTRRRREEEEETCCCCH!!!!”
I look at my son with a perplexed look on my face. The girls have started to crowd around and then my son says embarrassed and flummoxed “HE WANTS ME TO WIPE HIS BUTT. I’M NOT DOING THAT. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”
All of the girls and I all burst out laughing and my son stood there wide-eyed and about ready to hitch-hike home so he doesn’t have to wipe this kids ass. I feel sorry for both my son and this poor child in the bathroom who clearly needs help.
I then look at my son and said “Tell him that he has to do it himself.”
the little voice from the bathroom “I can’t reach.”
My son again shouts with emphasis now “WELL STRETCH, BECAUSE NO ONE IS GOING TO WIPE YOUR BUTT FOR YOU. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT EVERY BIG BOY NEEDS TO LEARN TO DO.”
I think my son is handling it as best as anyone could given the situation. The poor boy also is doing the best he could. My son says to me “I have to hold the door closed because he keeps opening it and then bending over so I can wipe his butt.”
I being the only adult in the room burst out laughing because this is a stance I am familiar with the ‘wipe my butt’ stance all hunched over shitty ass in the air, ‘wipe my butt stance’. I tell my son to go and tell the trainer what is going on and relieve him of his duties. I now am over by the bathroom and he’s right this child, with more fear than dignity, is in the ‘wipe my butt’ stance both hopeful and helpless. I close the door and I say to this child who is bottoms up. “You can do this and I will help you.” I coach the child from the other side of the bathroom door.
In the meantime the girls who have to use the bathroom have given up hope and headed out to the port-a-potty. We get ‘Bryce’ to clean himself up and head out to finish the rest of the riding portion of the camp. I see two counselors holding ponies with no riders. I ask where the riders are?
They both look a little nervous because at this point they realize that they haven’t seen their riders in a while. I go to look for the two missing children, one of which is my child. I went into the barn and nope the bathroom stall is empty. The kids in there are not sure where they went. I ask the counselors what the girls said.
“They said that they were going to the bathroom.”
I look in the barn again and one of the kids inside offer “Maybe they used the port-a-potty outside.”
I walk around the barn and sure enough the port-a-potty was rocking back and forth and I hear voices that are both amused and panicked.
“Can you reach it?” one little voice.
“I almost got it.” another little voice
Ugh! What the fuck are they trying to reach in the port-a-potty? I don’t know but it sure sounds like a Silkwood shower is in order for the both of them. (If you have never seen Silkwood…rent it or look up the scrubbing scene to get an idea of what I am talking about)
“Girls, do you need help?” I ask
“We are locked in here.” a little voice replies
I said “Ok, can you not reach the lock?”
“It broke.” my daughter calls out.
“Who are you in there with?” I ask
“Me.” said the other little voice
“Who is me?” I ask
“Amy.” she answers
Amy is just as tiny as my little angel. The lock broke and I have no idea what they were trying to reach but I think that this has the potential of becoming shittastic, so I tell them to calm down.
“My mom is here she can get us out.” my youngest is a believer and I love her for that. I on the other hand don’t quite know how to break them out of the port-a-potty. It is not a skill that I have needed thank the Holy One.
One of the older girls came around the building to see what was going on and I said go get the trainer. They come back with my son and older daughter instead. Ok more children, but very competent children just the same. (If you have ever met my two oldest children you will know why I call them the dream team. They are two years apart but everyone who meets them think that they are twins because they can communicate without speaking.) These two work together with the children in the port-a-potty and my youngest who has a great respect for her two older siblings all working together to free the two potty prisoners. They get the kids out and these two little potty cherubs come out all sweaty with the look of freed coal miners. They were all smiles and best friends now because nothing bonds you like a scary pottying experience.
When ‘Bryce’s’ mom shows up he is all smiles at his great accomplishment…all of the kids were like:
“I jumped my pony for the first time.”
“I cantered for the first time.”
“I learned my diagonals today.”
and then ‘Bryce’ “I wiped my butt all by myself. My counselor told me to STRRRRETCH and I did and I wiped it all by myself.”
His mother looking mortified was all “I am trying to teach him to wipe…but he doesn’t get it all clean…I know he has to learn….I just….” in her embarrassment trying to explain.
I put my arm on her shoulder because I am no judgmental smother and I say “Don’t worry about it, being a mom is hard and it takes a village. He did great.”
She smiled at me because she knew that I understood and I SURE DID UNDERSTAND. After all my youngest spent a great deal of time locked in the port-a-potty because they broke the handle off.
Moral of the story: Parenting is hard and being a child is hard too. Be a village for one another and reach out to that stressed out mother who seems that she really could use a kind word or three hundred. We aren’t perfect and being judged by others only makes us feel worse. Next, if you are a camp counselor, you may teach kids life lessons like how to wipe their own butts or how to break free from a locked port-a-potty. Your job may not be glamorous, but essential all the same. Lastly I recommend that if you are an adult and just drop your kid off at camp…take one day to watch how kids work together to solve problems. They really are remarkable. NO one person takes the lead as the expert and they value each other’s input. This is the true future of our world and they have this great ability and I loved that I was able to watch it firsthand. Adults could learn a thing or two from children who problem solve together.
addendum: The names in this story had been changed to protect the innocent….my mission is not to embarrass anyone. I truly want to entertain only.