Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bill Cosby Was Right…

When Kara was pregnant with Natalie those many moons ago, we took the prerequisite Lamaze classes at the hospital where we intended to have the baby. Perhaps we convinced ourselves that Lamaze was this magic elixir that was suppose to make the ordeal easier to bear for both her and I, I’m sure, but it ended up offering no salvation, at least not from where I was standing. As an innocent and completely helpless bystander during the actual labor and delivery process (despite the five solid hours I rubbed her lower back with a tennis ball), I can tell you first hand that Lamaze might work for some, but not for Kara. At least not that night (and neither again when she had Matthew). There was no focus or concentration, no breathing techniques applied, no gimmicky yoga-like Zen mind alterations supposedly aimed at triggering pain-relieving endorphins; instead, all I saw was just a lot of white-knuckled grinning and clenched-teeth bearing. And me, with a lot of sympathy pains and a never-ending stream of, “Can I getcha anything?”

At the end of the last class of the six-week Lamaze course, the enthusiastic teacher (one of the RNs at the hospital) decided it would be fun to have a pot luck dinner—as most all of the six couples in the class were first-timers—and watch “Bill Cosby Himself” on video while we ate and chatted.

My admiration of Bill Cosby’s talents is limited to only two performances, his groundbreaking “The Cosby Show” and “Bill Cosby Himself.” I have yet to see him in anything else that I remotely enjoyed, especially his trademark “Fat Albert” (I grew up in white suburbia. I had no idea what those kids were saying). Since I first saw “Bill Cosby Himself,” I have always enjoyed this particular stand-up routine (even though he’s actually sitting for most of it), but I never really took most of it to heart, merely face value, as the majority of what he says didn’t apply to me. I didn’t have kids. I didn’t go to the dentist. I wasn’t married. I did eat chocolate cake for breakfast though.

So, it was what it was, funny because of Cosby’s comedic timing and subject matter, but only recently have some the situations come closer to home.

One particular segment in his sketch that I never really gave it much thought was the part where he describes sending his kids upstairs to take showers and get ready for bed. The crux of the comedy in this scene is his insisting that if he didn’t spell out exactly what his children needed to do, in a specific order, the kids wouldn’t get it right. They would come downstairs soaking wet with the pajamas stuck to their bodies or one of them would have soap in her hair and another would be completely naked.

I never thought kids were that absent-minded or flippant until Natalie started gaining her independence, just recently. She loves to do things on her own, and, for the most part, she’s very good at them, the computer, eating, setting the table, dressing Baby Sara, putting on her shoes, etc., etc. But the whole sequence of events that makes for a successful trip to the bathroom has completely eluded her. Sure, she gets what needs to be gotten into the toilet alright, but it is all of the ancillary activities she must feel aren’t completely necessary, from turning on the light to drying her hands.

If I’m not standing next to her, ticking off the laundry list of things that needs to take place before she’s done, I usually get a variety of results when she does them herself. Sometimes it is interesting to see what comes back after I send her off to the lavatory. Usually, she comes back not wearing any pants. Her hands are soaking wet. They were soapy once. She brought the towel back with her as a cape around her neck. Her long sleeve shirt was soaked up to the elbows and the sink was half full of water. The lights are always left on. The toilet seat always up and rarely flushed. The sink sometimes still running. Towels on the floor. Soap dispenser oozing. There’s been water on the mirror, the sink, the floor, the door, the walls, her stool and even in the hallway. Sometimes, she doesn’t even come back, so I go in there to see what happened and she sitting on the toilet, swinging her legs back and forth singing a song.

“Oh, hi Daddy. I was just singing.”

“Do you know that you’ve been on the potty for 15 minutes now?”

“I was just singing.”

Rarely does she get it right unless I’m there, and it usually goes like this:

“Turn on the light.”

“Pull down your pants… and your panties.”

“Okay, hop it up there.”

She takes care of business. She actually has to hold onto the seat (as she’s refused to use the little seat adaptor), and if she doesn’t hold on, we’d have to go upstairs for a bath because she’d certainly fall in.

All related noises stop. “Are you done?”

No response, just a blank look, maybe a smile (or a grimace if there’s more). Give her a minute. “Are you done yet?”

“All done!”

“Okay, hop it down.”

She’ll actually responds sometimes like a chain gang to the warden (like from “Cool Hand Luke”) “Hoppin’ it down.”

“Wipe it off Natalie.” I hand her a Kandoo Flushable Wipe (yep, there’s such a thing) and we chant, in unison, “Wipe the front… wipe the back.” Since I don’t have the equipment, I didn’t know there was a specific order—front, back—until Kara taught her about that.

“Throw it in.”

“Okay, now flush it.”

Sometimes, it is hard for her to get the leverage to pull the handle, so I’ll do it (which explains why she rarely ever does). “Close the lid.”

“Pull up your pants… no, panties first.”

“Okay, let’s wash your hands.”

“Turn on the water.” She won’t get her hands wet until I tell her to, even if the water’s on.

“Soap it up.” There’s three soaps currently on the sink. I’m not sure why or where they came from, but she usually samples a partial pump from each to create some floral soap assemblage that pleases her when she squeezes it through her fingers.

“Okay, scrub, scrub, scrub… get the backs of your hands too.”

“Rinse them off.”

“Alright, let’s get down.” Meaning off of her stool, the one that her Great Uncle made for her soon after she was born. She loves it.

“Dry your hands now.” Even when I’m there, she does a poor job at it, merely scraping her palms down the front of the towel. She figures she’s done with the actual work from going to the bathroom, so she’s eager to get back to whatever fun thing she was previously engaged. “Do it better than that.” And she does.

“C’mon. Turn off the lights.”

There. By then, I’m usually tired of telling her what to do, but if I don’t, I know she would get a big fat checkmark next to “incomplete” on her report card for the day, which means that she’d dry her hands off on my shirt, she’d be naked from the waste down, and/or I’d hear water running in the bathroom from down the hall.

Maybe one day she’ll get the hang of it and the next time I watch “Bill Cosby Himself,” which I haven’t seen since that pot luck Lamaze class, the predicaments which Cosby describes will be that much more truthful.

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