We have discovered the secret of happiness. Our lives are filled with joy. We have joy morning, noon and night, so much joy that I don't think we can take any more.
Our secret? Potty training.
As you veteran parents know, potty training requires you, the parent, to react to every successful effort by the child with an outburst of near-lunatic rapture, as though the child had produced a commercially viable cold-fusion reaction right there in the potty. So that's what we do, many times per day.
"GUESS WHAT!?," I shout to my wife at the top of my lungs, despite the fact that my wife is standing one foot away.
"WHAT?!," my wife shouts back.
"SOPHIE MADE PEEPEE IN THE POTTY!!," I shout.
"SHE DID??," shouts my wife. "LET ME SEE!! OHMIGOSH!!!" She is staring into the potty with an expression of stark astonishment, as if she had expected to see, I don't know, a banana daiquiri.
"YES!!" I shout. "WE HAVE TO CALL BUBBE!!"
"Bubbe" is Sophie's name for her grandmother, who, as far as Sophie is concerned, is standing by her telephone on Full Red Alert 24/7, waiting for breaking updates from the tinkle front. When we call with the incredible news, Bubbe is of course astounded and overjoyed almost to the point of total nervous collapse. Pretty much everybody reacts this way. For example, recently a plumber came to our house to fix a leak, and we had the following exchange, which I am not making up:
ME: It's the kitchen sink. It...
SOPHIE (running urgently into the room): Tell him I went potty!
ME (to the plumber): She went potty.
To supplement the Joy Technique of potty training, we're using the Role Model Technique. Sophie wants to be a ballerina, and we have told her, repeatedly, that if you want to get anywhere in the field of ballet, the number one prerequisite, insisted upon by every major dance academy here and abroad, is that you be potty-trained. Over the holidays we watched The Royal Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" on TV, with my wife and me offering a running commentary, as follows:
MY WIFE: Look! The Snow Queen! She goes potty!
ME: And there's the Sugar Plum Fairy! She's not wearing a diaper!
These techniques are working: Our daughter now tells us when she has to use the potty. That's the good news. The bad news is, she has the bladder of a gnat, which means we go to the potty a LOT. And sometimes we must use less-than-ideal facilities, especially when I'm the sole caretaker, meaning that I have to take my daughter into ...
(CUE SCARY MUSIC)
... men's public restrooms (motto: "Men Aiming Badly"). I used to take my son into public restrooms, and it was no big deal, because boys can, well, you know what boys can do. But girls need a place to sit, and the typical men's room has no surface I want my daughter to come into contact with, including the ceiling.
In an ideal world, I would always carry, in Sophie's bag, along with the juice box, the change of clothing and the emergency backup Barbie, a military flamethrower. That way, as a hygiene precaution, I could briefly raise the temperature inside the restroom stall to 1200 degrees centigrade, so as to kill, or at least temporarily stun, the predatory commode-dwelling bacteria, which in some men's restrooms reach the size of mature hamsters, which would be a good name for a rock band.
But because of this nation's strict and, in my opinion, unconstitutional flamethrower-control laws, I don't have this option. Instead, I have to painstakingly construct, using 200 linear feet of toilet paper, an elaborate protective seating barrier for my daughter. When I'm done, I put her on the seat, where she produces, after a dramatic pause sometimes lasting 10 minutes, a total of four peepee molecules. Which I am of course required to be joyful about.
"YAY!! I AM SO PROUD!!!," I shout, startling the bacteria and causing the other men's-room occupants to wonder what kind of sick perversion is taking place inside the stall.
But I don't care what people think. What matters is that, although this whole ordeal has been exhausting and emotionally draining, we're almost through. Soon we won't need diapers at all!
For Sophie, anyway. I give myself five years.
-- Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.