I return to the bathroom where only seconds before I had stationed Eli in front of the pot with instructions to tinkle before bedtime. This is important, you see, because otherwise he forgets to go until he is playing with giant chocolate Lego blocks in Dreamland, where instead of toilets they have golden trees that sing Raffi songs when you pee on them.
As I approach I see that he is bent over like an ostrich, with his head almost completely in the toilet bowl. Apparently the boy is interested in a plumbing career. Naturally, I am horrified, and so I bellow in that idiot-speak we parents have during our worst nobody-warned-me-about-this moments.
“Hey, uh . . . boy! Unh-unh!! No, no, no, no, no!!! Get your, uh, get that, uh, get your head out of the toilet!!!!
He stands up straight as an arrow, his lip quivering. Add one more page to my weighty file of screw ups as a father. He pulls up his pajama pants, grabs his little blue blankie, and stands there looking at me with glistening eyes.
I get down on my knees in front of him. “I’m sorry for yelling, little buddy. Do you forgive me?”
More lip quivering. “No.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled, because you didn’t know any better. I just didn’t want you to get any germs. Toilets are dirty. We shouldn’t stick our heads in them. But I shouldn’t have yelled. Did I scare you?”
“I’m sorry. Do you forgive me?”
He thinks about it for a second. “No.”
I pick him up and plant a kiss on his soft little face. “I won’t yell again.”
He perks up. “Yeah, the next time I stick my head in da toilet, you won’t yell at me.”
“I won’t yell, but you shouldn’t stick your head in the toilet, okay?”
More thought. “O-o-o-kay.”
And now as I type this he is sitting in my lap, a happy little lamb, last night forgotten. I never used to be an “I’m sorry” person. Now it feels like I say it all the time. But I like “I’m sorry” people more than the other kind. Don’t you?