Some mom wrote a magazine article a few years ago about how the only time she ever had to herself was when she was in the bathroom. She’d lock the door and sit on the edge of the tub just to get a few peaceful minutes away from her kids.
“Ha ha,” I thought when I read it. Until I realized last week that she has one up on me. The lock on my bathroom door doesn’t work. I have no safe haven.
My 11-month-old daughter started crawling not long ago and prior to that she figured out how to use her chubby little arms to lift up onto pretty much everything. She’s now an expert at crawling and pull-ups, and in the past few weeks she’s combined the skills to follow me into the bathroom and dispel any notion that it could ever be a sanctuary. While I’m on the toilet she’s not just content to sit and stare at me (although she does plenty of that, too). She stands up by holding onto my knees and cries until I put her in my lap. It’s hardly an ideal way to, uh, pass the time.
At first I thought she might be coming into the bathroom to inspect the plumbing. After all, she’s already made a point to check out every single wire and plug in the house. I figured she was simply showing signs at an early age that she’d eventually get an advanced degree at a technical trade college. I felt proud.
But the reality is she feels it’s her duty to be in the bathroom when I’m there because she’s my stalker.
In some ways it’s sort of flattering to be stalked. It hasn’t happened to me since I was a 22-year-old NBC page in Manhattan and another page, Warren, got drunk at a party and spent the night standing on the street outside of my apartment leaving messages on my answering machine threatening to throw himself in front of the M104 bus on Broadway if I didn’t let him in. It’s nice to feel wanted like that.
So I’m somewhat secretly delighted that my daughter now can’t live without being by my side every second. Especially because it was several months ago that I read in a baby book how she was already supposed to be experiencing separation anxiety.
“She must not love me because she doesn’t care if she’s not with me all the time,” I cried to my husband. “I’ve done something wrong!”
Shortly thereafter it dawned on me that I wouldn’t really know if she experiences anxiety because we are never apart. And it’s just recently that I’m realizing that it’s not even me she actually wants. I’m merely a vessel. She uses me to get to the good stuff.
Although our house is entirely baby-proofed and filled with a veritable smorgasbord of toys, she wants exactly what she can’t have. If it can maim or kill her, if it contains red wine or hot coffee and can be spilled on a carpet, a piece of electronic equipment or her head, if it can destroy a plant or some small piece of our adult happiness, she wants it.
I figure she wants to be on my lap while I’m on the toilet so she can have a better view of what’s inside the trash can that she will later attempt to overturn. If she pesters me to pick her up while I’m working, it’s not because she wants to cuddle. She goes straight for the computer mouse. Or bangs on the keyboard and tries to pry out the individual letters.
But sometimes she’s really just like a puppy. She’ll shred any piece of paper she can get her hands on. She sits on the floor, waits for me to pass her down a snack and when she’s ready for another bite, swats at me and whines in a way that only Veruca Salt could appreciate. She’s delighted when I toss her an empty toilet paper roll so she can bat it around. If I leave the room and come back 12 seconds later, she greets me like we haven’t seen each other in years.
More specifically, she’s like one of those tutu-wearing circus poodles. You swear it’s not agile enough to be able to get up on its wobbly hind legs and balance, and so when it does and then even does some tricks, you want to applaud. Unless it’s doing it at precisely the same moment that you just want five minutes to yourself in the bathroom.
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