I am almost to the traffic circle on my way to pick up Melanie from pre-school, and I glance at the parent spy mirror. I see two girls sitting quietly, Sylvia and my friend’s daughter, Belle. The quiet is typical without Melanie in the car. Then I see Sylvia’s brow furrow in concern. Ignoring this, I turn my attention back to the road and creep through barely-moving traffic. Sylvia’s face contorts. “Are you alright Sylvia?” She looks up. “I got to go potty,” she gasps. “Can you hold it?” “Okay, I hold it.” I creep one car length forward. The traffic circle at lunch time is a nightmare. I recount the twenty minutes it frequently takes to get to the other side. To my left and right, masses of pine trees loom between the houses, not a store in sight. I hear whining. “Hold it, hold it,” I urge her. “Hold it, hold it,” Sylvia repeats, like a parrot. I wonder if I had just kept driving, ignoring the silence, would she have been okay? I look at the tree line and face my dilemma. Do I let her pee in the car-seat and clean it, or do I pull over and run to the trees, risking her screaming and crying because she has to pee in the woods, surrounded by cars? Someone who knows us might see. This is a small town after all. I silently scold myself for caring about the judgment of others. We are almost to the circle now, and the opportunity to go for the trees has passed. “Hold it, you can hold it, right?” “Okay, I hold it.” I can hear the strain in her voice, the urgency increasing every time we talk.
We pass around the traffic circle. My friend is waiting with the big girls at pre-school. We get a quarter mile down the road, and Sylvia begins to sob. There is no shoulder on this road, only driveways leading to private residences. Should I knock on the door of a random house? I can’t do that. I wonder which will hold out longer, my pride or my daughter’s bladder. “You can make it Sylvia. We are almost there.” She continues to cry. I lied. We are not almost there. Where am I going to take her? “You can do it, you can hold it Sylvie.” Her crying rises in a painful crescendo. “Potty, Potty.” Panic courses through the van. Baby Danielle can feel the tension and makes her own small sounds of discomfort. Belle, who has been silent so far, petitions for Sylvia. “Potty Ms. Sheena, Sylvie needs a potty.” “I know baby. You can hold it Sylvia, okay? Okay?” “Okay, Mommy.”
I look up, and I see a beacon of hope on the top of the next hill, the office of a driving range. I am about to pass it. I quickly change lanes and come to a sudden stop in the parking lot. I race around the car, thanking God for my automatic doors that have her door open as I release Sylvia from her chair, and at the same time I yank a diaper from the diaper bag. I place her on her back, slip the diaper on, and pull up her pants. Now she is safe. Now she can go. She looks at me bewildered. “No diaper, Mommy. I need potty.” “Can you hold it?” “No.” “Just go in the diaper.” She looks like she is going to try, but then gives up. “All done. Go to school.” I feel the dry diaper and look at her, confused. How bad did she really have to go? I have been panicking for five minutes here, and you want to make it to the school! I get Belle and Danielle, and we march up to the driving range office. What a sight we are, among the well-dressed business men. I open the door and hardly have the words out of my mouth when a man is leading me towards the restroom. What else would a sweaty woman in gym clothes scurry into a driving range office for, with two toddlers and an infant in tow?
I cram the four of us into the tiny bathroom, my legs straddling the baby’s car-seat in order to close the door. I boost Sylvie to the potty, and we both sigh with relief. “Potty, I go potty.” She lifts a hand up from the seat for the obligatory high five.