“I need to go potty.”

Eyes still closed against the chilled grey of 5:00 a.m., I let out a fatigued sigh.

“Okay Noah. Aunt Bekah will take you.” I swing my feet onto the icy floorboards and hop, as though navigating a minefield, across the room to avoid the creaks of the old farmhouse. I search in the dark for Noah’s hand to help him off the bed.

“No. I want Mommy to help me.”

The battle begins.

Being roommates with my two-year-old nephew over Christmas was a necessity. With thirteen Williamsons crammed under one roof—five of whom are still under the age of five—the situation called for tactical sleeping arrangements. Some said that we were doomed to an unfortunate holiday break due to our tabooed number. However, we do have a lucky number fourteen. My brother’s three-legged dog steps up, hobbles up, to mitigate potential bad luck.

Battle resumes.

“No Noah. Mommy is still asleep. Aunt Bekah can take you.”

“No. I want Mommy.”

“What did Aunt Bekah just say? Mommy is still asleep.”

“I’ll wait.”

Galled by the show of gusto, and amused by the early signs of stubborn behavior reminiscent of my brother David, Noah’s father, I shrug and climb back into my own bed.

Bowel movements were the theme in my parents’ house this holiday. We couldn’t hold them in. Two nephews strategized techniques for the tug-of-war with their parents also known as potty-training. While the rest of us wrapped presents and prepared the turkey, half-naked two-year-olds scurried from one end of the house to the next. The squeals of glee, as each boy in turn evaded his chasing parents, drowned out Bing Crosby’s invitation to enjoy a white Christmas that had zero potential of arriving.

“‘Piderman, ‘Piderman dum de dum dum de dum de dum.”

After fifteen minutes of transparent disapproval at my attempt to help him go potty, my nephew begins his daily ode of appreciation to his favorite superhero. I listen warily. I don’t want to make any sudden movements that remind him of my presence. I am in the midst of a delicate and dangerous operation. A wrong move could ignite a tantrum.

I asked my brother Sam, father of three, why kids hate going potty. His son Judah had, moments before, flat out denied need of the potty despite wobbling through the house with crossed legs. Sam, amused at my blatant ignorance, watched his son waddle half-naked to the Lego pile before answering, “Because they know parents want them to.”

After the third chorus of “Piderman” I gather the courage to make one final siege.

Good morning Noah.”

Noah’s singing about Piderman!”

He tactfully skates over our previous discussion.

“I want to sing Piderman with you.”

“No. I want to go potty.”

“Let’s get mommy.”

“No. I want Aunt Bekah to help.”

Victory.

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