“Go away,” Connor says stubbornly from the other side of the blue plastic door. “I’m not coming out.” I can imagine his squared shoulders and little red face, a sullen glare the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is his sharp forward chin thrust. This would be funny if it weren’t happening to me – I have the width of perspective to know my friends will laugh later, but right now, I can’t see a way out. I want to cry.
I take a deep breath in, and slowly exhale. What choice do I have but to try again? Finn took Sadie to soccer in the city, so it’s not like I can call for backup. And I certainly will not ask another parent for assistance.
Triple No. I may drive a minivan, but I still have my pride. Not a chance in hell will I ask for help.
I clear my throat. “Connor, please unlock the door. Slide the plastic handle to the right.” He giggles.
“Mom . . .” his little voice is faint, but resolute, “I know how to get out, I just don’t want to come out.”
Lord, I pray silently, Lord give me strength because this child is testing me today. Like, reeeeeaaally testing me. “Listen kiddo,” I say through gritted teeth, bringing my mouth close to the door so the parents and other swimmers don’t notice us – don’t look our way as we cause an unseemly scene – “if you don’t get out of this porta potty by the time I count to three, there will be no tablet for a whole month.” Pleased with what I think is a compelling threat, I wait for a response. There is none.
“I’m going to count to three.”
I know my kid, and I know that inside that portapotty he’s shrugging his shoulders. “Okay.”
“And if you don’t come out by the count of three . . . “
“I know, I know. I heard you. No tablet for a month.”
“That means no Fortnite,” I say, attempting to strengthen my threat.
“Yes, mom,” Connor says, sounding exasperated. “I play Fortnite on the tablet. I get it. No tablet, no Fortnite.”
I glanced at my Apple Watch. 1:35. His heat for the 25 m free will be lining up any minute. It’s time to start counting. I deepen my voice a little, try to sound authoritative. “Ooooonnneeeee.” I figure if I draw out the numbers, it’ll give him more time to consider the consequences.
“Twwwoooooooooo.” I hear sobbing coming from inside the porta potty, imagine snot exploding from Connor’s nose, him wiping it all over his swim trunks. Shit. I soften my voice, “What’s wrong sweetie?”
“Mom,” he says, unlocking the door and opening it an inch, enough for me to see a sliver of his little tear-stained face, thin bottom lip quivering as if caught in a hurricane. Yessssss, I think to myself. Yesssssss, the door is open. Hallelujah.
“Mom, I’m scared to swim because at lunch Kyle told me that if I accidentally pee in the pool it’ll turn blue and everyone from all the other clubs and their parents in the stands will see and know it was me.”
Kyle, I think, my eyes automatically narrowing at the name of that little hellion. Duh! Of course it was Kyle.
“That,” I say to my son, pulling him from the porta potty and wrapping him in a hug, “is absolutely ludicrous.”
Little red headed Kyle with the Spiderman towel and the orange goggles, I think to myself. Little Kyle with the Paw Patrol water bottle. Little Kyle, who I bet pisses in the pool three times a practice. A plan begins to form in my mind, and Connor looks up at me, a worried look in his chocolate brown eyes.
“Mom? “Mom, what are you going to do to Kyle?”
I just smile and pat his arm. “Nothing that you need to worry about.”