We were staying at an RV Park five minutes from our house as we transitioned from life in suburbia to life on the road. We had setup in the rain while the children were relegated to wait in the van, and all of them were in dire need of the one shared bathroom available. We finally released them from captivity only to realize we would need to make one more run back to the house to grab some vital things for the next day.
So I hopped back in the van with two of our daughters, and while we were scurrying across the house to collect everything, my phone rang. On the other end of the line was my wife saying the toilet wasn’t flushing in the camper. As my mind quickly ran through troubleshooting options to give my wife over the phone, I knew nothing could really be done until I got there. After all, one of the top five responsibilities of every husband and father, which cannot be delegated to a child or wife, is the fixing of emergency toilet problems.
We loaded up and drove back to the RV Park to be greeted by a line of children still in need of that sacred sanctuary of relief. I walked into the phone-booth-sized bathroom to open the lid, and at the bottom of the toilet was nothing more than some toilet paper. I flushed the toilet and everything seemed to work normally. The special camper toilet ran water and opened the slide which dropped the toilet paper down into the tank of the camper. I thought maybe they had forgotten how to use the foot lever to flush.
I stepped out and the next customer in line stepped in. She flushed and exited, then the next child stepped forward. Then came the pause, “Dad! It’s not flushing again.” Feeling an air of confidence, I walked back in, and sure enough, it wasn’t working. I could floor the foot lever to flush the toilet, and all I could see was the toilet paper sitting on top of darkness. The water began to build up. So I did what any frustrated, overly ambitious, amateur plumber would do… I thrust my arm into the hole and to my unsuspecting surprise pulled out a pile of $&!#.
As this surreal experience was playing itself out, I immediately began looking for the perpetrator who should be conscripted as my plumbing assistant. I turned into Sherlock Holmes as I deduced who was waiting in line to go to the bathroom, who had traveled back to the house with me and could not be a suspect, and who was left in the crosshairs of my investigation while toilet refuse moistened my arm from elbow to finger tips.
The subdued rage must have been just as palpable as the smell because no confession was forthcoming. And thinking back on it… I don’t blame them. Would you confess to stopping up the only toilet nine of your family members were restricted to on the first night of a yearlong adventure with your father’s arm dripping excrement while veins visibly pulsated in his neck? Not if you even had a chance of avoiding it, you wouldn’t.
It is in moments such as this that I am reminded of two parenting truths. First, if you want your children to be honest with you, don’t turn into the Gestapo whenever they have done something wrong. Secondly, and more importantly, a fundamental component of being a parent is getting exfoliated by your children’s $&!#. It’s almost spiritual to the degree of being intimate and humbling in the most grotesque of ways.
Needless to say, I never caught the culprit. After a fierce hand-to-hand battle, the clogged toilet gave up the ghost, and we have permanently installed a “No #2” policy for the camper. This has not prevented additional skirmishes of the same sort from arising because the human digestive tract knows no authority during times of crisis. However, I am now seasoned in the art of decongesting toilets and judiciously training apprentices.