Monday, February 4, 2008

When bowls collide

With yesterday designated as "Dad's day off," in lieu of watching Super Bowl XLII I spent most of the day catching up on a little household maintenance, swapping out our showerhead and toilet seat for newer models, and cleaning, to whatever extent possible, my at-home office. But when 5 p.m. rolled around, the time came to drop whatever I was doing with that day "off" and take over Boy Care, while Mrs. headed to the kitchen after watching the first half, forsaking the game in favor of creating some eggplant parmigiana.

So Super Bowl XLII remained on in the background while I spent a rainy late afternoon in my living room with The Boy. The halftime show was just ending as I entered the room, watching bemused as The Boy kept his back to the television, combining and recombining Legos into any number of fascinating configurations before asking to play a rousing game of Candyland.

You know me. Even though my couple of years in Providence made me a New England Patriots fan, I show about the same interest in the Super Bowl as a timberwolf does in shopping malls. To me, it's just a bad football game played in front of an audience of cocktail-quaffing private-jet elites, where commercials take center stage and fight for resonance, where "resonance" means "time spent rattling in otherwise empty heads."

But the game stayed on. I guess my Super Bowl aversion wasn't strong enough to get up and turn it off.

Our living-room Lego adventures continued until the eggplant parmagiana was ready, and after that hearty and tasty meal, we sauntered off once again to the living room, where we found the New York Giants had just taken the lead from the heavily favored Patriots. The Lego reassemblies suddenly degraded into a father/son tickle fight, and after the giggles subsided, The Boy stood up, headed for his train table, and while bending at the waist and holding on to the table's edge with both hands, he began jumping up and down.

Months of experience told me this was The Signal; The Boy needed to poop. And the Patriots, slightly behind on points, were trying to score on four downs with less than a minute left in the game.

Now, you must understand we've had nothing but trouble in the potty-training department since my Green Bay travel in late November. I pretty well had The Boy trained for both Number Ones and Number Twos before the Thanksgiving holiday, but with my mother-in-law stepping into the Boy Care role while I traveled -- and no, having raised three kids of her own, she doesn't like to take direction from a mere "dad" on anything we do for The Boy, including training methods -- something happened. I know not what, exactly, but suffice it to say while in the care of Mother-In-Law, The Boy reverted entirely to making messes in Pull-Ups, completely losing interest in and developing an active resistance to any semblence of toilet use.

In the intervening weeks we've had a devil of a time retraining him, achieving only a complete lack of success. Stubborn one, this Boy, preferring when "the feeling" comes to stay put and have what he calls "an accident," despite copious reward offers.

So, at the moment he began jumping, two clocks were ticking. One for the trailing Patriots, and one for potty-time success.

In the final minute, as the Patriots attempted to move the ball downfield, I attempted to move The Boy down hall, coaxing him into heading toward the bathroom and trying for his "first down" since November. As the Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady got sacked, The Boy looked to me from atop the throne and said, "Would you go away for a minute?"

I left the bathroom just as the Patriots offense ran out of downs, and for a moment, we believed all was lost.

But then, as Patriots coach Bill Belichick strode onto the field to congratulate the about-to-win Giants, the bathroom door cracked open. There, as the announcers spoke of the Giants impending win and the efforts to restore order on the field so the game's final second could be played, a triumphant Boy stood, grinning at me proudly. He opened the bathroom door and pointed to the toilet, saying, "Tah-dah!" and revealing a bowl-bottom lump of potty-time success that, in many ways, must have resembled how many Patriots fans felt at that moment.

To me, at that moment the Patriots loss was immaterial, and I couldn't have been prouder. After all, after a long season of ups and downs, my Boy had just won the Pooper Bowl.

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