First of all, I do not want to be embarrassing or demeaning to Aaron with this post – but there is a facet of Aaron that is very interesting. I was reminded of it this morning when he came downstairs. I could tell that he didn’t have his usual bounce. He was somber and his eyes showed an element of fear.
“Mom,” he quietly said, “the toilet upstairs is stopped up.” I understood, then, why Aaron was so quiet and withdrawn. He has always battled a fear of toilets. Yes, big and loud Aaron is afraid of toilets. And he is even more afraid of stopped-up toilets.
I probably unknowingly created this monster – or at least contributed greatly to it. The year was 1987. Gary was in the military and we had enjoyed several years in Colorado Springs, our first duty assignment. In May of 1987, he traveled to Germany to begin his new flying assignment there. Aaron, Andrea, and I had to wait until Gary got temporary quarters, at least, before we could join him. That didn’t happen until August, so in August we moved to Germany.
We had only been there for a few weeks when Gary had to go to the field for several weeks. There we were, living on the fourth floor of a huge building full of temporary quarters while we waited for our permanent housing to become available. Surroundings there were a little drab and sparse, to say the least. I didn’t know many people; couldn’t drive yet; had a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old; the washers and dryers were way down on the basement level; etc., etc.
The morning that I woke up and said goodbye to Gary was a lesson in having my own personal pep talk, as well as leaning on the Lord. I told myself that I could do this – no problem! Soon I heard Aaron and Andrea giggling, so I walked in their room to find this:
Not the best start, but what can you do – except laugh and take pictures?! Anyway, in the midst of all this stress I decided that I may as well begin potty training Aaron. I had waited long enough during our moves and upheaval, so why not now? I had gotten him some cute little GI Joe underwear and proceeded to fill him with excitement about our new potty-training venture. “Look at your new GI Joe underwear, Aaron!! Won’t this be fun?!” “Look at you, such a big boy in your GI Joe underwear!!” And on and on I went.
Soon after he started wearing his GI Joe underwear, of course, he pooped in them. No big deal, I thought. I knew that I could just swish them around a little in the toilet, put them in the underwear pail, and we’d be good as new. But I never thought about the difference in American and German toilets. German toilets are eco-friendly. They have a shelf, then a drop-off, and then just a tiny little bit of water below the drop-off. To make this design effective, the toilets have an extremely strong suction when you flush.
OK. I stood Aaron by the toilet, took his special and wonderful GI Joe underpants off, and soon realized that there wasn’t enough water in the toilet with which to clean them. I decided to hold them down in the little bit of water below the shelf, flush, and let the flushing water clean them off while I held them. I was feeling very smart as I reached over to the handle and flushed, with Aaron standing there watching his very smart mother’s every move as I held his very special GI Joe underwear down in the little bit of water.
One thing I hadn’t counted on……………..the suction. The very strong suction. It ripped Aaron’s special GI Joe underwear right out of my hand and sucked it down the toilet, never to be seen or heard from again. I can still hear that suction sound. I bet Aaron can, too. Poor little guy! He stood there staring down in that toilet, eyes huge, and speechless with fright.
From that point on, Aaron wanted nothing to do with any form of toilet or potty chair. He’d look at me as if to say, “Do you honestly think I’m going to sit on that monster?!” Couldn’t say that I blamed him. Potty training him took a very long time. The autism certainly didn’t help, but the monster suction toilet that ate his special GI Joe underwear was not a bright spot in our potty training journey.
Aaron’s lifelong fear of toilets is legendary in our family. We have some funny stories of how he’s behaved over the years in public toilets, trying to stretch his arm out to flush while running out of the stall as fast as he can. He does much, much better now but still has a hesitation around these contraptions. And like this morning, if it’s stopped up then I must fix it right away.
So I asked him this morning, “Aaron, do you want me to fix it right now?” He said yes, and I knew it couldn’t wait. I asked him, actually, if he would be OK if I worked on it later, and he got “that” look as he said no, that he wanted me to do it now. No need to question him further, or make him feel bad for being fearful of the stopped-up toilet.
And no need to expect him to help me or to be anywhere near the bathroom as I plunge and flush. He’s as far away as he can be, probably remembering his special GI Joe underwear and hearing that awful sound.
He and I do NOT miss German toilets!