Tripping the Hazmat Fantastic.

Parenthood is a ticking, germ-laden time bomb. A sea of vile, phobia creating quarantine shed scenarios that make even the bravest of the brave fall to their knees (get up, sanitize their knees with a travel sized Wet One, return to their knees, hand sanitize their hands after touching said knees) in horror. I have taken a deep breath and, for the betterment of kindred parenting spirits everywhere, have gone to a dark, dark place in order to tell you about the worst of the worst. Public arenas turned Outbreak. Places soap can not touch. Places soap doesn’t bother touching. Places where hand sanitizer is futile. Places of danger. Places I always end up.

Kids, is everyone suited up? Great. Let’s get out there and have some FUN.

Remember that scene in E.T.? – The scientists arrive at Elliott’s home to study E.T. and his connection to Elliott. They are all wearing hazmat suits with full astronaut helmet. The entire house is connected to the research site by an elaborate series of above ground tunnels? These places are exactly like that except remove ALL attempts of sterilization and order.

I must insist you keep your body completely covered while in the milk crate. Gertie found it in a KFC dumpster.

 1) The Indoor Play Place
The sites! The sounds! The smells! No, it’s not Clorox. Take 15 – 40 partially potty trained toddlers, several babies and a smattering of 1/2 tuned in parents and you have the perfect storm that is the indoor play place. Urine. Unrecongnizable assaulted food products. Dirty diapers. Soiled underwear. That is just the coat rack near the entrance. There is, inevitably, a climbing structure that is just big enough for a child to become stuck and terrified and just small enough for you to lay on the floor, stick one leg under the structure for support and flail most useful arm up into the abyss, motioning for your child to grab your limb. During this cirque du soleil feat, you try not to think about the wet spot grazing your hand and are hopeful that your foot is digging in to what could be so many things, but, is probably not the nutrigrain bar you’re hoping for. After hours with other parents, exchanging horror stories and on-call pediatric physician numbers for the closest three counties, you leave, shower your children and burn their clothes in the backyard.

2) The Children’s Museum
At the children’s museum, you can explore your local city. You can learn how to anchor a news desk, work the local market register and learn about transportation. There is one exhibit missing – how to fight off the resurgence of 14th century “black death”. Come with questions, leave with the Bubonic Plague. Not on museum t-shirts yet. I’m working on it. The children’s museum is a maze of sticky plastic produce and rare childhood viruses. Learn how to make change, ride the subway and survive hand, foot and mouth disease. Be the foreman at a construction site, try on a fireman’s helmet and pass on Fifths Disease to your family and friends. Excuse me, your former friends. The children’s museum. Discover. Learn. Vomit.

3) The Public Pool
All you need at our local pool is $1 per child, a swim diaper and the intestinal fortitude of a world champion butter eater. From the kiddie area, the regular pool gleams with sparkling chlorine filled water. Water filled with adults. Water filled with the expert level potty trained of America. Over in the kiddie pool? Well, imagine a sewer line. That’s it. Just imagine a sewer line. Turned inside out. With lots of crying. And, unusually warm water. Our toddler water area is very festive. Rainbow sprayers, turtles to climb on, and giant shower head sprayers. I see the appeal. So does every 2 year old in New England. The turtle, and its fun shell sprayers, act as a seat AND an unintentional water fountain. Mmmm…can you taste that? That’s chlorine and anxiety. Delicious. Between the tears, swim diaper blow-outs and smashed snack shack fries, I make a weekly vow to never return, but, the fanciful rainbow sucks me back in every time. “This time it will be different.”, it whispers. “This time, it will be magic. I’m a rainbow…trust me!” The rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and pee.

4) The “Family Restroom”

I appreciate the idea behind the Family Restroom. Logistically, where else could I take a cart filled with a gaggle of children that all inevitably require some sort of restroom attention as soon as the magical, bowel clearing automatic store doors open? I appreciate the consideration. I appreciate the size. I appreciate the intention. But, as we all know, the path to Hell is paved with good intentions. And, the path to the family restroom is paved with e-coli. The real BUMmer about the family restroom is its lies. Its sweet, vile lies. “Oh, come on in! You can ALL fit in here. Yep, the cart too!” You wander in and just like that, you are the fly and this room is the Venus Fly Trap. Upon entry, you have already realized that it is too late. You are right. You can fit 3 – 4 regular sized bathroom stalls in the family restroom. You will find an adult toilet, a toddler toilet, a changing table, a toddler seat, a stool and the sink. 250 square feet of chaos. Think it’s hard to keep children from touching the singular toilet in a small stall? Try 3 toilets, 3 trash cans, a painter’s step stool placed directly undereath a dangling light fixture and, just for giggles, add enough running room on slippery tile to make this interesting. Imagine the game of Life. Every car is a shopping cart. Every home, a Family Restroom. Every road leads to a hospital and every crank of the wheel, another dose of IV antibiotics. The only improvement I can offer – single use straight jackets. Problem solved. Long story even longer (brace yourself for endlessness), I guess what I’m saying is, I am not down with O.P.P. (Other People’s Pottys, Outdoor Port o’ Pottys, Ominous Public Pottys, Opulent Porcelain Pottys, Offensive Putrid Pottys….I could go all day). Yeah, you know me. The BOTTOM line? As often as the family restroom horrifies me, it gives me flowers and promises that next time the initials indicating the last cleaning will be in this decade. It will be better. Clean. I believe it because I like flowers and second chances. And scouring my hands with Soft Scrub.
“You JUST went to the bathroom before we left the house!”
The undeniable fact is, I still go to all of these places. Frequently. Willingly. Like when a horse is willingly hitched to a plow in a field in the dead of August or, when parents willingly attend Recorder concerts. Willingly means something different when you become a parent. Willingly now means; My kids enjoy or need this so, hook that rope around my waist and send me in to the demon portal closet full of poltergeists. I’m coming through the other side covered in pink slime and clutching my babies. Willingly. Like a thankful for up to to date immunization boosters BOSS.


  1. You’re amazing – E.T., the rainbow connection, and Poltergeist references all in one morning. Thanks for the blast from the past sprinkled with some germ-hating crazy.

  2. If I didn’t already have a tag line, I would so use: A Blast From the Past Sprinkled with Crazy. Love. Thank you for reading, Marian and for the love in comment form. xo

  3. That’s a great comment Marian!
    Oh dear heavens- who would have thought writing genius emerges from the germed depths of hell??
    Awesome. Serious Awesomeness.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am so glad that I am not the only one.. When I talk like this I get that look from those parents who think that a trip outdoors will help their sick child feel better(that’s the nice version of that thought..)and I am just some germ phobe who needs prescription drugs to fix it. HAHA…those would be nice some days but not for what they are insinuating. You are my hero!

  5. This literally brought tears to my eyes from laughing…. Rock on sister.

  6. You managed to gross me out, yet still make me hungry for butter. You are a gifted storyteller, indeed.

    The “family restroom” scenario made me think of the “large” changing room, which has exactly enough room for you to cram yourself in with the cart and the kids and the gum stuck to the bench. Plus you’re also expected to take off your clothes, and if you say, “But at least there’s no excrement in the changing room,” then I submit the possibility you’ve never tried something on at WalMart. 😉

    • Oh, you are so much more brave than I am. My shopping technique? I buy $400 of clothes right off the rack from Target and then return $360 of them the next day after trying them on at home. THEY LOVE ME.

      Want to go eat some butter?

  7. The indoor play place is the one that makes me cringe. I always feel like I need a Silkwood shower after going to one.

    Also, even though they don’t look it, those climbing structures are usually big enough for an adult to become stuck and terrified too. Trust me.

    • Christian, I think it’s the circus school hopeful in me that makes me turn child saving into an all out circus spectacular. I sell popcorn and red, sponge noses at all my child retrieval feats.

  8. You just said what I think in most of those situations. I hate play places, public pools, and icky public restrooms! You’re right though, we venture out to places like that for the sake of the kids, packing hand sanitizer and a lot of hope that no one gets sick this time!

    • The things we do and the communicable diseases we contract for our kids. Worth it – says I, who currently has conjunctivitis. Winning at germ prevention? Not this lady. Thank you for reading, Patricia!

  9. I always dread the fact that, no matter where we go, the Children’s Museum, the Mall, an outing on fishing boat, my 5-yr old ALWAYS has to go to the little girls room within 5 minutes of arriving. And then, regardless of how much I lecture, cringe, or shriek, she manages to touch EVERYTHING. She will go to great lengths to grab a paper towel to open the bathroom stall, and then toss it away while caressing the door handle.
    I just figure it’s giving her an incredible immune system, it’s gotta be, right?

    • That’s what I always go with. I keep thinking, “at some point, we all will have caught EVERYthing and noone will ever be sick again.” That’s not fantasy. Right? RIGHT? Right. *sigh*

  10. Very nice post, I too get skeeved in these places. How about the bathroom at the beach? Hell No!

  11. The lovers, the dreamers and pee. Yep, that sums it all up nice and tidily.

  12. You keep bringing me joy, girl!

  13. Hey, consider these places easy boosts to building up those kiddo immune systems against bacteria and germs, right? Frequenting them and skeezing out right along with you 😉

  14. Funny because it’s so true! The worst for me is when I actually SAW some kid sneezing, coughing and wiping his snots on an amusement park ride steering wheel….moments before my daughter chose that very vehicle. As she climbed in, I was like that slow-mo underwater voice of doom going “NOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

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