My daughter was three years old when she decided she was terrified of automatic flushing toilets. She had been potty trained for over a year and had never had a problem with the auto flushers until my sister and my niece came to visit. My niece was five years old and was traumatized every time she was forced to use an auto flusher. My daughter, Jael, witnessing an episode of tears and screaming decided she too, must be afraid of them.
We were at the San Fransisco Airport, a couple of months later, waiting for a flight to Chicago. Our plane had been delayed and our two hour wait had been increased to four. Tugging on my hand, Jael said, “Mom, I need to go potty.”
I turned to my husband, Israel, and said, “Hey, I’m taking Jael to the bathroom. We’ll be right back.” Glancing up from the magazine he was reading, he gave us a wave. We walked to the bathroom and after a short wait, into an available stall.
Jael, spotting the automatic flusher, turned around. “I don’t need to go,” she said, trying to walk out the door.
“Oh, yes you do,” I said, closing the door behind me. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” She shook her head. “I’ll cover the sensor so it won’t flush while you are on it.” Another head shake. I crouched down so I could look her in the eye. “Jael, this is the only bathroom available. Every toilet is going to be an automatic flusher. There’s no where else to go.”
“I don’t need to go,” she insisted.
“Here, I’ll go first so you can see that there’s nothing to be afraid of,” I said, standing up.
“No, I don’t need to go,” she said again.
Crouching down again, I sighed deeply. “Jael, you said you needed to go. Now you are saying you don’t need to go because you are afraid of the toilet. It is not going to hurt you. Now, you are going to get on the toilet and go potty so you don’t have an accident. You can’t hold it until we are on the plane so you are going to go on this toilet.” I reached out to help her with the snap of her jeans.
“NO!” she screamed, pushing my hands away. “I don’t need to go!”
Embarrassed, I hushed her. “Shh. It’ll be easy. Dad will be so proud when you tell him you went on an automatic toilet like a big girl!” I reached for her again and she began wailing. “NO! NO! NO! I don’t wanna go! I don’t need to go! I’m scared!”
“Be quiet,” I hissed through clenched teeth, intensely aware of the other people in the crowded airport bathroom. I didn’t want security called because my daughter was screaming but I also desperately didn’t want her to pee her pants as we got on the plane. “You are going to go to the bathroom. You are not going to live your life in fear. There is nothing to be afraid of. Now go to the bathroom,” I ordered.
She shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “I don’t need to go potty. I wanna go back with Dad.”
I trembled with frustration. “Jael, we are going to be here for three more hours. You are going to have to go at some point. Let’s just get it over with. Come on, I’ll help you.”
“NO! I don’t need to go!”
I sighed in resignation. “Fine,” I said, standing up, “but make sure you tell us if you need to go. You are not allowed to pee in your pants.Understand?” She nodded, her face streaked with tears. I felt like crap. “What kind of mom tries to force her three year old to pee?” I asked myself. I went to the bathroom and the toilet flushed automatically when I got up.
“See, it didn’t hurt me at all. Are you sure you don’t need to go?” I tried one last time.
“I don’t need to go.”
I sighed and opened the stall door. We washed our hands. I dried mine under the automatic hand dryer but Jael, distrustful of all bathroomgadgets, insisted it was too hot, and dried hers on her pants. I pushed the door open with my hip and let Jael out. We walked back to her dad.
“What took so long? I was starting to get worried,” Israel asked, pulling Jael up onto his lap.
“Well, you know what they say,” I said, settling down next to him. “You can lead a child to the bathroom but you can’t make her go.”