Creators Syndicate - After 15 years of living with a decaying old wreck of a kids' bathroom, my wife and I decided last week to finally bite the bullet and have someone come in and do a full renovation.
I'd been limping along on homemade repairs and upgrades forever, installing a new toilet and vanity, and even replacing a section of the tub wall that had decayed with new, almost-but-not-quite matching tile. But it's always been a disgrace in progress. The toilet didn't work unless you stood there and held down the lever till precisely the "right" moment, an acquired and frankly disturbing skill, and every time someone closed the door too hard, plaster would fall from behind the extra-big mirror — so large because it covered up an extra-big hole in the wall.
The moment of truth came after Christmas when we had to call our plumber to rout out a clogged drain. He nearly quit when he opened up the access panel to get at a pipe inside the wall and angrily declared that some idiot (Present!) had sealed all the leaks in the tile by smearing the inside of the wall with black roofing tar. (Hey. It worked.)
So this past Monday morning at 9, a contractor pulled up to our house with a big dumpster and proceeded the work of demolishing and carting away the slow-moving train wreck that is our kids' bathroom. For the next six weeks, our house will be a whirlwind of dust, with power tools drowning out all attempts at conversation.
The most intimidating part of the process, though, was the prospect of sharing our one bathroom, for six long weeks, with our three children who still live at home. My wife and I specifically moved to the third floor of our house to get away from kids. Tired of stepping on tub toys and tripping over sneakers, we established our own retreat up there and guarded it jealously. As the kids have gotten older, bath toys have been replaced with all kinds of body wash, fruit-scented shampoos, and aftershaves meant for those too young to want girls, let alone get them — a devil's stew of competing supermarket care products.
Every once in a while, a kid will sneak up to my bathroom. I'll find the TV switched to Nickelodeon or the floor, rugs and towels sopping wet, and I'll know there's been an intruder. But for the most part, it's an exclusive club, with my wife and I being the only members.
I sat the kids down the day before the renovation commenced to have a heart-to-heart lecture. Throughout this ordeal, I said, they would be guests in my bathroom. They could shower if they did so quickly, if they made sure not to get water on the floor and if they took all their "stuff" with them back to their rooms when they were done. Think of it, I said, trying to relate to them on their own terms, like being at summer camp. My daughter raised her hand.
"Actually, Daddy," she said in that condescending tone a male child would never attempt, let alone get away with, "at summer camp, we could take showers as long as we wanted, and they were nicer than your bathroom."
"Fine," I said. "Think of it like prison. Be glad I'm letting you shower one at a time." They all winced.
"What about going to the bathroom?" her sister asked.
"Only when necessary," I said. "Try to go at school before you get on the bus." This just got a trio of frozen stares.
Only our 13-year-old son seemed unconcerned. Throughout this entire thing, he realized, the house would be full of dust and dirt, a thin cloud of renovation haze coating everything in sight. He instantly calculated that he had six glorious weeks where he couldn't be blamed for how filthy his room was. His smile died on the vine when he learned that we wouldn't have friends over during the entire time our house was under construction. If I wasn't happy about having my own kids use my bathroom, I told him, there was no way I was coming home to find some strange middle-schooler in there.
I know there are people out there who will say, "What's the big deal? I share my bathroom every day with my kids! Suck it up and stop complaining, pal!" All I can say is: Send me your address, and I'll MapQuest directions so my kids can go use your bathroom.
And they might even bring their friends.
To find out more about Peter McKay, please visit www.creators.com.