All my creativity happens on the toilet.

It really does.  It’s so quiet in there, so peaceful.  I recently painted my master bathroom a relaxing shade of powder blue, upgraded all the hardware to glossy white and it’s actually a very nice space to spend some quality time with myself.  It’s a small warm room, a little oasis just for thinking.  Well, not just for thinking but sometimes we simply need a few moments of quiet to think, a break from calculating what needs to be done, what hasn’t been done, when it all needs to be done and how much time we have to get it done.  A couple minutes to ourselves for mindless thinking, pondering, relaxing with good reading material, and if you’re as lucky as I am, your husband will also keep steady subscriptions to Wired and Popular Science magazines at your fingertips.  With perhaps a lightly scented floral candle, soft music playing on my iPod and a little bowl of after-dinner mints, who would ever want to leave?  Eating in the bathroom might be taking it too far, but I’m not ruling it out.   I do occasionally get hungry in there.  The bathroom really is one of my preferred places to gather my creative ideas, and as my mind is full of words, I read what’s inside my head and laugh out loud because I’m so funny.  There’s something about a comfortable toilet seat that just inspires my wit.

Until the children notice my absence.  They hear me laughing.  They might even hear me talking to myself and worry that I might be having too much fun without them.  “She’s in there!  Alone!” They might frantically think to themselves.  “She’s probably eating after-dinner mints and reading something super funny like Calvin and Hobbes.”  The knocking often starts slowly, incrementally increasing in force and apprehension as I don’t respond right away.  The small voice soon follows, “Mum.  Mum.  Mum, are you in there?” repeating from the other side of the door.  I try to ignore them at first, mostly because I don’t smell smoke nor do I see blood trickling under the door, but mostly I ignore them because I believe in them.  I believe they will soon remember all the good manners I’ve taught them over the years, that they will quickly pick up on my silent social cues, knowing that leaving somebody alone when they’re in the bathroom is just the right thing to do.  I believe all the years I’ve spent gently reminding, firmly reiterating, and frequently yelling while my palms crushed my temples “Are you on fire?!  Are you bleeding?!  Is somebody trying to kidnap you?!  Can you see I’m on the phone?  Do you understand I’m on the toilet?!” will kick in and they will stop knocking.  That is what I believe.

Until they don’t stop knocking.  “MUM.  Mum? Answer me.  I know you’re in there.  Is something funny happening in there?  Because I’m hungry and I need you to fix my glove.  It’s doing that thing where it goes inside out again.  Mum?  Did you hear me about the glove?  There’s a dirty pot in the sink; are you going to wash it?  MUM.  Do you even care that my stomach hurts?  And what’s so funny?  Mum, I like funny things and it’s really hurting my feelings that I can’t see it too.  What’s that crunching noise?  Are you eating something?  I’m starving and I want you to make me pancakes.  You never make me pancakes anymore.  You used to make me pancakes all the time.  MUM.  Do you even love me anymore?”

I sit quietly as any urge I previously had to move my bowels comes to a complete stop and all my constipation problems suddenly become very clear.  And here I was thinking I just ate too much cheese.  I’m relieved to have ruled out the cheese, because cheese is delicious, but still irritated that my plan to poop was once again foiled by a person too short to even make their own pancakes.

His defeated footsteps slowly pad away from the bathroom door and I momentarily battle a wave of guilt for not letting him in the bathroom and wonder how on earth I ever let another person have so much power over me.  In all likelihood, he will not continue this behavior as an adult; he will allow other people to have alone time when they’re on the toilet.  He’s only seven and that’s clearly too young to feel comfortable with his mother so far away, in another room, all by herself, without him, possibly having a fun party.

I allow myself to relax again, settling back into my thoughts, stringing one sentence with another, my mental dialogue flowing with creativity.  It’s not so bad in here.  I actually wish I had a little bowl of after-dinner mints, those pastel colored ones that melt in your mouth.  Those are delicious and would really complete my alone moment.

The knocking starts again, only by bigger, moodier hands this time.  “Mum!  He said you’re making us pancakes?  So we’re having pancakes for supper then?  You said pancakes?  Did you wash my home jersey?  And where did my favorite black leggings go?  You didn’t give them away to charity did you?  Mum!  They totally still fit and I hate it when you give my clothes away.  Why are you always going into my room and giving my clothes away while I’m at school?  Mum, why?  Are you even listening to me?  I wish people would stay out of my room!  I don’t want to talk about it!”

It’s always bizarre to not talk and somehow still get into an argument with my 14 year old daughter.  And also I totally do go into her room and put the too-small clothes into a charity bag; I would have eaten my mother for lunch had she pulled that crap on me.  Staying in the bathroom feels like the right thing to do at this point.  My stomach is growling and I wish I’d had the foresight to bring a sandwich in with me.  Eating in the bathroom feels normal right now.

It has also become clear to me that age 14 might also be too young for my children to respect their mother’s special bathroom time.  I’m going to stay optimistic and hold out hope for the 16 year old.  However, there’s a good chance he would knock on the bathroom door for the car keys, so I think it’s all about managing my expectations.  And also I wonder if I rearranged the stuff under the sink, could I fit a little wine rack under there?

Alright, descending colon, it’s all you.  You got this.  No more drifting thoughts; stay on task.  And although the fantasy of a relaxing bathroom respite is theoretically possible, it’s not happening today.  Let’s focus on the bodily function that prompted us here in the first place.

Knock on the door.  “Mum?  I drew you a picture.  It’s how I feel when you don’t let me in the bathroom and I have to be alone without you all by myself with nobody else and so lonely with nobody to talk to forever.  Are you still making pancakes?”

My heart usually melts when he draws me pictures, but this particular picture could easily be mistaken for toilet paper.


Renée Chalou

About Renée Chalou

Renée Chalou lives and raises her family in Presque Isle, where she owns a fitness center, LiveWell United. Her oldest son is in his second year at UMO, her daughter plans to attend UMPI in the spring and her youngest son is an active, happy 11 year old in 6th grade. From her life experiences as a homeschooling parent, blending a family, and transforming herself from an overweight, side-line mother to a competitive athlete mother and fitness leader in her community, she writes about what she knows: living life well even when it's not perfect. She writes about finding and clinging to the good even when it would be easy to focus on the bad, no matter what challenges life brings. Life in Northern Maine is wonderful, full of adventures and sub-zero temperatures. It's not for everybody and nobody claims it's easy. But it's a good life, it's hers and she'd like to share some of it with you.