Today my daughter made the connection between a sacred body of water and her tiny body full of water and decided to bridge the two in a centuries-old bodily ritual.
Every NYC parent knows you need to bring fistfuls of pennies to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oh, those glorious fountains! It’s possible the museum collects more money from the thousands of pennies tossed there daily by young children than it does from admission fees.
There is no more magical body of water in the whole of New York City than the reflecting pool at The Temple of Dendur. An Egyptian temple built in 15 BC; it was transported brick by brick to the United States in the 1960s where it found a new home at the Met. The reflecting pool next to the temple is an homage to the Nile. One wall of the wing is made entirely of windows overlooking Central Park and the wing’s roof is a wondrous skylight that bathes the temple in diffuse light meant to mirror that of Nubia’s. The wing that houses the temple glows. It takes your breath away.
I am certain none of the historical grandeur is lost on my not yet three-year-old child. Indeed, the reflecting pool became a sacred toilet today.
I have approached toilet training with the same lack of organization and consistency which is my strategy for much of motherhood.
“It will work out.” That’s my attitude. I don’t have gold star stickers or charts or books.
Sometimes my daughter adores the toilet; sometimes she feels it is unnecessary to use it since she already knows how to—been there, done that, as the toddlers say.
On this day, my daughter wanted to wear underpants instead of diapers. It was 140 degrees in the shade, so I said, “Sure, wear underpants.”
We trekked through Central Park to the museum and I immediately took her to the restroom. She watched Mommy pee and I asked her if she wouldn’t like to try out this pretty marble bathroom at the good old Metropolitan Museum of Art. She declined. She didn’t have to go, she told me, or she absolutely would.
Armed with a pouch of pennies, we raced to the Temple of Dendur. The misty light filters in, the trees of Central Park gracefully frame the view through the wall of windows, and visitors whisper as they pass the Sphinx.
My cherub ran to the ledge overlooking the reflecting pool. We climbed onto it and I lined up her pennies. She began tossing them at an alarming speed and I feared that to her dismay, she would be out of them too quickly.
“Take your time,” I told her. Relax.”
She stopped tossing pennies. Her face grew contemplative, meditative. It was the face of a toddler filled with wonder in a mystical landscape. It was the face o fa serene being gazing out over the water, reflecting by a reflecting pond.
It was the face of a toddler urinating on ancient sandstone.
I had anticipated that she might miss the toilet today. I had packed a towel, a change of clothes, and diapers. I may be lazy, but I’m still a mother, for god’s sake.
I leaned in to her face and kissed her nose.
“Did you pee in the Nile?” I asked.
“Yes!” she giggled. “It’s because I relaxed!”
We sat quietly in urine for a while until I was sure she had completed her task. Then I discreetly took some paper towels out of our diaper bag and patted the wet stone. I said a little prayer that sandstone from 15 BC wouldn’t crumble because of some toddler pee. We headed conspiratorially back to the marble bathroom. She tap-danced on the changing table while I slipped a fresh dress over her head and put the wet clothes in a plastic bag.
“Now you know that relaxing is the secret to a good pee,” I told her. “Next time, relax on the toilet.”
“OK, Mommy,” she said. Then she asked me why changing tables have safety belts and could she get a banana or chocolates at the café and was the glass elevator in The American Wing working and could we swivel the postcards at the gift shop and were we walking home or taking a taxi.
I don’t know if she learned anything today, but I did. I learned that I prefer to take it as it comes rather than trying to control my child’s development.
I also learned that one can pee in full view of hundreds of visitors to the country’s most famous museum and not one of them will have any idea. That’s a very relaxing thought.