I know that my grandson is trying to be helpful; he’s that sort of five year old who still wants to learn to do things the right way. However, last night I just had to draw the line. I had to tell him that we just don’t throw used toilet paper in the wastebasket. It’s just not done!
I know! I know; it seems terrible to me too, but I’m nothing if not a sympathetic grandpa. So I
asked Te’Juan just why it was he was throwing the poopie -- his word, not mine -- the poopie
toilet paper in the wastebasket instead of into the toilet bowl. I should have known that he would
have a perfectly good and reasonable answer. He told me that he just didn’t want the toilet to
overflow on the floor. A few more probing questions and I began to understand.
It seems that a few days previous to this Te’Juan had flushed this toilet and walked away,
presumably done with his business, so to speak. Well, it seems that he had used a more than
generous amount of toilet paper -- his mother had warned him to be really clean, so he really was
-- and the toilet clogged, backed up, overflowing on the floor. The poor little guy was corrected
and warned not to plug up the toilet again.
Well, Te’Juan is nobody’s fool; he’s very intelligent -- takes after his grandfather. He knew that
when faced with conflicting requirements -- you know, like getting your butt clean but not
plugging up the toilet -- smart people, even smart little people, will come up with a solution. His
was to use the wastebasket. Now all of this was well and good and having heard the story I could
have had my inventive grandson back on the right track in no time at all, except for his
It seems that my wife had eavesdropped on my toilet class with my grandson and she just
couldn’t contain herself. She had to point out that poop toilet paper in the wastebasket would
soon be covered with bugs and was, therefore, a very dirty thing to do. Stupid me; I just thought
it was dirty because it was poop! Anyway, she asked Te’Juan if he understood. He said not
really. She then reminded him of the dog poop in the backyard with the flies on it. He said he
remembered. She then asked if he wanted bugs in the wastebasket. He said that that would be
yucky -- again, his word. Smart kid!
So now what? Well, every time that Te’Juan uses the toilet he immediately calls for management
-- that’s me, grandpa -- to oversee the flushing operation and to standby with the plunger, the
plumber’s helper. We haven’t needed it yet, but I guess it’s comforting to him to be so cautious.
Somehow this all seems tied back to grandma’s interference and I can’t help but think that I was
handling things better before she introduced bugs, dog poop and flies to the lesson.
I’m certain that somewhere in this story there is a moral or life lesson, but for the life of me I’m
not certain what it could be. Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that sometimes our best intentions
overflow with unexpected results; or, maybe it’s that life is filled with choices: clean butt, clean
floor -- take your pick. Oh well, next time I’m just going to flush the toilet when grandma starts
to speak; I know what to do with poop.
Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school (the hormonially-challenged) teacher. He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large.