Reese and I would be in a store together, and the time would come when I had to take her with me into the men’s room – either for my sake or to change her diaper. When Reese was a baby, we would take care of bathroom business swiftly and smoothly without any static from Reese.
But then Reese became a toddler. Then, when it came time to use a public restroom, she was full of protest.
“I want to go to girls’ room. Mommy takes me to girls’ room for potty,” Reese would say.
“I can’t go there, Reese. I am a boy.”
“But I want to. I a girl.”
“I know you would prefer that, Reese. But I can’t go there. And you’re not old enough to go by yourself. I’m a boy. It’s illegal for me to go to the girls’ room. I’m sorry.”
(The conversation would spin around and around like this for another minute or two, and then finally…)
“But, Reese, I’m a boy. I have to use the boys’ room. I can’t got to the girls’ room.”
Then she’d pat me on the leg and she’d say, “It’s OK, Daddy. It’s OK. Someday. Someday.”
The end of the exchange almost made the rest of it worth it. Reese seemed to think that me being a boy was a developmental problem. I think she probably still feels that way and may still have that perspective twenty years from now – depending on the men she meets along the way.
Reese’s toddler resistance had nothing to do with being uncomfortable in the men’s room. Once we would finally get through the debate, and I would win, she would be willing to go with me, and she’d ponder the oddity of men’s room urinals while we did what we had to do.
The resistance had to do, I think, with a growing sense of her personal identity.
Reese wanted to be in the women’s restroom because she was a woman, albeit in early, teeny-tiny form. Of course, to a certain extent, Mindy and I helped educate her into this identity. Surely this training worked in concert with the inborn female leanings Reese must surely have had. In our toileting debates, Reese was beginning to claim that deep identity for herself.
I am (toddler) woman; hear me roar (about going to the men’s room at Target).
This is how it’s worked with other identities, of course.
At the same age, when Reese would see a cross or a crucifix she’d often say, “Jesus is on that. He has ‘owies’. I want him to feel better.”
When we’d do bedtime prayers, after the Lord’s Prayer, Reese would start naming people in her life she wanted to see receive a special helping of God’s care. She’d often name people we would have never expected her to think of. Then Reese started also giving thanks for favorite toys and blankets. I didn’t see that coming, but I should have.
We taught Reese these types of things. It’s part of being born into a Christian family, I suppose.
But as a toddler Reese began claiming them for herself.
She started to practice the faith herself.
In reality, it’s the same thing I still do in my 40s. I learn more about my faith from others. I sense things from within. Then I try these practices out and take them in new directions that fit with my identity and my calling from God.
Despite our different developmental stages, Reese and I were – and still are – doing pretty much the same thing. We are trying to follow Jesus in the day-in-day-out details of our real lives. I don’t think there’s another way to do it, really.
I just wish that back then, when Reese was a toddler, Jesus would have told her to take it easy on me when out of necessity I had to take her to the men’s room.