“Why do I have to pee in a cup?”
We were driving home from my boys’ annual pediatric “wellness” visit. Because Little Bro is entering 4th grade, he’s required to have certain forms filled out verifying he’s up to date on his vaccines, and also a urine test.
I hadn’t inquired about why I was handed a prescription for a urine analysis; it’s 4th grade protocol. Just more damn paperwork.
“They need a sample,” was all I could think of to say; my already-summer-saturated brain was stumbling toward the next of our errands, picking up staples like milk and orange juice– staples I’d forgotten, having to do the weekly shopping with the boys in tow, as school is out, and that means one or the other whining for Gummy Bears or Lucky Charms Rice Crispy bars.
The summer can begin to wear on me by week one; thus I come home with Gummy Bears rather than staples for true survival and of some minuscule nutritional value ( Mott’s gummy “medleys” made from “real fruit” instead of Gummy Bears, and “whipped” yogurts that are, yes, about as nutritious and airy as whipped cream.)
“Why not a sample of my hair or spit? Or boogers?”
“Gross, Dude,” said Big Bro, stabbing at his DS with one of those tiny little stylus stick things that will get lost between the van seats, so I will be suckered into stocking up on more from Target.
“I don’t want to pee in a cup.”
This comes out as all-too-familiar a summer whine. And makes me want to get a super early jump on school supplies for the sake of my mental health.
“Last year Mom helped me,” Big Bro said.
I don’t remember “helping” Big Bro, who is now entering 5th grade. With him, I’m apt to remember better his horror of throat swabs, when he quite literally cowers in the examining room, beneath a quilted hanging of a stupefied panda bear.
Little Bro can instantly transmute his whiny voice into the deep-throated-cool-dude one he will use on the Xbox with his Call of Duty friends (Yes, he plays mature games because his aunt bought him one, but be assured we turn off the bad language so he can retain some innocence while shooting up bad guys with machine guns).
“I don’t need help peeing in a stupid cup.”
“I didn’t either,” countered Big Bro–as they will, at the speed of bullets, counter each other– “Mom insisted.”
I looked at them briefly in the rearview mirror, barely able to see Big Bro, his little blond head bent over that tiny rectangular screen.
Little Bro was staring forlornly out the window, his camouflage army cap pulled to one side gangster style.
“Probably because I wanted it in the cup,” I said. “Not on the ceiling.”
“Mom, but you know I have good aim.”
Yes, Little Bro, on mortal combat games. Not at aiming into a cup.
“I. Don’t. Want. To. Pee. In. A. Cup. How do you pee in a friggin’ cup? ” he whined, whined, whined.
The car felt sweltering. I turned up the air-conditioning. “Be glad at least it’s easier for you boys than us girls,…” I said, hearing just the hint of a snap in my summery voice.
Then Little Bro asked why.
He’s nine years old…Why?
We were suddenly stuck at a too-long red traffic light. “Because you have better…aim.”
Thick-as- pea-soup silence from Little Bro.
I looked at him in rearview mirror. He was staring back at me, his mouth hanging open in a befuddled O.
It was Big Bro who came to my rescue: “Why do you think girls sit down?”
Little Bro’s little O widened a bit. “They sit down?”
“Shut up Mr. Po.”
Now it was Big Bro whining: “Mom, tell him to stop calling me Mr. Po. Why doe he always call me Mr. Po?”
Little Bro shrugged. “You’re a Mr. Po, Mr. Po…”
“And you think girls have penises,” Big Bro countered–quite loudly.
I could no longer bring myself to look in the mirror at either one of them. As sweltering as the car was, it would be winter by the time the damn light turned green….
We’d already had this “conversation” a few years back, when they had seen a toddler girl naked. She’d been running through the sprinkler at a friend’s house, and I remember vividly their stunned looks of both horror and enlightenment.
Back then too, the “conversation” had taken place in the car–more precisely, in the rearview mirror. I’d had to launch into particulars, and I admit, I hadn’t liked it. Let’s face it, I would have been far more comfortable mothering in the Victorian era when these “conversations” perhaps never came up at all, and women were concealed beneath layers of stiff curtain-like skirts. Maybe because I hold my own memories of my own mother too eager to sit down with me, on the edge of my bed in my virginal yellow-plaid bedroom and explain to me about…well you know.
And my pretty plaid bedroom had felt like this. A sweltering car.
Little Bro is rarely relentless except when he “really needs” the latest Nerf gun. But he was relentless now: “Then what do they pee out of?”
I’d rather be buying him a Nerf gun.
“Their bottoms, Dude,” said Big Bro.
Honestly, I don’t know where the “dude” thing comes from. Dude sounds like a foreign word spewed from a boy who skips out onto his football field as if across a field of daisies.
Little Bro, I could feel it, was seeking me out in that damn rearview mirror. I kept my eyes trained on the damn red light.
You pee out your poop hole, Mom?”
Big Bro craned his head up momentarily. “Dude…”
I waited for Big Bro to answer. But the car was so silent as we sat at the broken red light, that I could hear the little stylus stabbing at the little screen, and I realized he didn’t have the answer.
And so I began: “Well… it’s not your poop hole or your pee-pee….” don’t tell me this language is better suited toward a toddler.
I looked in the mirror. Now both boys were looking at me. I have been as remiss at enlightening them about human anatomy as I am about forcing real real fruit down their throats.
“A vagina. Girls have a vagina.”
OMG the light changed. I gunned it.
Big Bro bent his head deeper down over his screen, disappearing entirely from my rearview view.
Little Bro on the other hand, sat up a little taller, nearly speechless. “That’s just…evil. Pure evil.”
I longed to reach Stop & Shop where this conversation would be dropped in favor of conning me into buying more junk food.
“Then how do girls pee in a cup?”
I didn’t know how to answer this question technically, as a girl doesn’t, well, actually pee out her “V”… without having to launch into biological details of urethas and bladders. For which truthfully, I’d probably need a textbook.
So I said simply, “We have little tiny pee-pees.”
“Little tiny pee-pees?”
“Penis, Mom. We’re not two,” Big Bro said, stabbing, stabbing, stabbing that stylus.
“That’s even more evil!” wailed Little Bro, twisting and turning in his seat. “That’s just bad…it’s Nasty.” Then he shook his head in despair. “Why do girls have everything tiny? Tiny little earrings, itsy stuff…even tiny pee-pees….”
This was starting to feel like conversations I now have with my mother when she can insist on her cherry trees growing ginormous branches overnight, or now having three cats instead of two.
Dementia can be catching, and I found myself saying, “Actually we pee out our nose.”
“You pee out your nose? That’s not evil, that’s a…a..that’s a fail!”
(If you’re not up on latest hip talk, “fail” refers to when you do something so uncool as to zip up your hoodie.)
When we got out of the car at Stop & Shop, Ryan made a fist with his hand and held it between his legs to illustrate where, yeah, girls would pee. He at least seemed to remember something about the toddler girl incident….
It was a relief to be out of the stifling enclosed walls of my momma minivan. “After this, who wants Friendly’s for lunch?”
“Seriously?” Little Bro stomped off to get a shopping cart. “I’ve lost my appetite.”
Big Bro’s other gerbil had just died and I hadn’t told him yet. I’d been putting it off, but suddenly I was super eager to change the subject, even if it meant dramatic tears and, as soon as we got home, having to weather a funeral on the side of the house, while Big Bro “carved” an epitaph into a stone with a permanent marker.