I probably don’t mention it enough, but by and large, the Puddinette and I are blessed with relatively calm and mostly well-behaved children. I say relatively and mostly, of course, because any human, miniature or otherwise, is occasionally going to test the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Our kids are no different in that regard, but by and large, the biggest problem we have to deal with is when one of my darling offspring calls another a “stinky-booty-face” or something of the like as the result of a dispute about which of them is currently the rightful ruler of the remote.
Honestly, who hasn’t called their own spouse a “stinky-booty-face”, or worse, over the remote control?
So, yes, we’re lucky. My evenings are largely filled with simple refereeing. Nobody’s setting fire to the neighbor’s cat or anything.
Until it becomes bedtime.
I’m not sure what it is, honestly. I suspect that the forces of Balance in the Universe are paying me back for all my own childhood bedtime misbehavior, which was not inconsiderable. Plus interest, compounded over 24 years. Whatever the cause, though, bedtime is a constant annoyance. Still, I can usually get everyone in bed with a few hugs and a nightly minimum baseline of threats. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to intervene after the lights are turned off once.
Some nights, though, well, some night are like tonight.
Tomorrow the three older kids are having their annual school Halloween parties, with costumes, cookies, cupcakes, and critters, so obviously there was already a sense of excitement in the air. On top of that, a new Shrek Halloween special was on TV tonight, which added on to the general evening merriment.
So, clearly, when it was time to brush their teeth and go to bed, everyone went right up to the bathroom and calmly applied toothpaste to their enamel.
And I’m the Bathsheba, Queen of Lollipop Guild.
After telling the oldest boys to turn off the TV and get ready for bed, they stormed into the hall bathroom like a Wehrmacht invasion in 1939. Hoping that they could at least finish the prep work before I needed to take personal command, I paused briefly to chat with the Puddinette about a post-bedtime grocery trip for essentials. As she rattled off the list of weekly sale-items, I applied my best selective hearing skills, because honestly, sometimes you just don’t feel like picking up dill pickles at 9 o’clock on a Thursday evening, regardless of how many you can get for $10.
It was irrelevant, though, because before we could finish our market negotiations, I heard The Squeals of Bickering from the bathroom. Obviously, just brushing one’s teeth, taking care of the rest of your nightly routine and getting out of the bathroom, is a process too straightforward for a seven year-old. And really, why go get right in bed and start reading when, instead, you could take a few minutes out of your busy evening to pester one of your siblings?
So I donned the trusty Drill Sergeant façade and broke up Ali-Frazier II in the bathroom with a few well-rehearsed orders.
Not too long afterward, the nightly reading was complete, hugs were applied, youngsters were tucked-in, and the lights went out.
I then made the mistake of walking past their bathroom again, where I noticed that the toilet was clogged. Now, sometimes there’s…um…stuff that lets you know a clog is in process. Other times, though, it takes the practiced eye of a part-time Smitty to identify the slightly lowered level of water available in the bowl.
And yes, I’m plenty practiced there.
Needing validation that the toilet was clogged, I of course proceeded to do the one thing you should never do in such circumstances; I flushed.
Now, usually, when you’ve got a little clog-age going on, the water will rise to merely frightening levels before slipping past the blockage in the drain and seeping away. Sometimes, though, when you’ve got a good solid dam down in there, that water’s going nowhere.
And the toilet just keeps filling.
And that’s when you realize with a start that it’s not going to stop before it hits the Level of Doom.
As I watched the water rise, the situation before me hit home, and I dashed away for a plunger. Now, I’m not and never was a fast guy. In high school, I ran the 40-yard dash in 5.8 seconds*. But tonight, with the impending threat of toilet overflow, I was back in the bathroom, plunger in hand, before you could say, “1.6 Gallons per flush.”
But it was too late. By the time I got back, the water was still contained by the bowl, but just barely. There wasn’t even enough room in there to add the plunger without pushing past the volume limit. I was doomed. So I did the only thing I could; I turned the water off at the feed line to the tank, and quickly grabbed some towels.
Luckily, the Puddinette has trained me doggedly over the years to easily identify which towels could be acceptable for emergency toilet overflow duty and which would result in the slow, painful plucking of my neck hairs in the middle of the night while I slept.
As the water crested the bowl and began hitting the floor, I arranged the emergency towels for greatest expected effect and waited for the flood waters to recede.
And that’s when I heard it: the tell-tale signs of Ali-Frazier III revving up in the bedroom.
It turns out that one of the ‘Pops had taken the other’s wallet, and was being somewhat coy about returning it. Having exactly zero units of patience remaining for Bedtime Shenanigans during Toilet Crisis 2010, I stormed into the room, my blood boiling and my eyes the color of crimson flame.
Walletgate was resolved quickly and effectively, and both Puddinpops where made to understand that if I heard so much as a whisper of thought that suggested further bickering this evening, both of them would be dressing as Little Bo Peep this year for the school Halloween party as well as Halloween itself. I even considered throwing in the entirety of the following week, just for good measure.**
Ten minutes later, thankfully, the tide had receded, the plunger had done its job, and the flood was cleaned up.
And not a single peep was heard from anyone’s bedroom.
Which is good, because I wasn’t sure where I was going to get two Bo Peep costumes at 8 AM.
*Hey, I was a lineman. We aren’t known for speed.
**I wouldn’t really do that. Probably. I don’t think.