Parenting While Poor – Bad Plumbing
There are many methods parents use to help their children thrive and inoculate them from the ills of the world. Some try to inspire circumspection by taking their kids to church, some instill a work ethic by subjecting their children to multiple after-school sports, some promote future prosperity by giving dollars for As. Most people in my community make thoughtful, considered decisions to achieve their particular parenting goals. My choices have been mainly thrust upon me, but I make the best of them. So while others are taking their kids to baseball practice and tutoring appointments, my children and I spend our time coping with faulty plumbing.
Imagine the stoicism and self-sufficiency that a child will develop when he has to cope with a toilet that never flushes properly. A toilet like our upstairs toilet — when the apparatus that flushes it broke for the third time I gave up trying to repair it. I took the cover off the toilet tank as a warning not to use it. But then my children and I realized that we could reach into the tank, down through the cold water to the bottom and lift the flapper, or rubber plug, to evacuate the bowl. Who needs a lever? Out of necessity ingenuity is born! Eventually I brought up a stainless steel pasta ladle — yet another innovation! We could use the ladle to lift the flapper up and flush the toilet, keeping our hands warm and dry. After years of adversity my children are undisturbed by the taken-apart toilet; they adapt quickly to any innovation. My daughter Charlotte, twelve years old, woke me up early one morning to tell me that the toilet water wouldn’t stop running after she’d flushed it. “Turn off the water,” I muttered, rolled over and went back to sleep. When I got up the water valve to the toilet was shut off, my youthful feminine plumber having remedied the situation solo.
Imagine the lessons that can be learned by having your downstairs toilet erupt like a geyser when you turn on your washing machine! I have to tell you that such an event is of utmost fascination to children, especially boys. After watching the burbling geyser, my children got to enjoy watching me finally call in a plumber, negotiate a price, give up on that plumber (who was damn surprised, he thought it was an emergency and that I’d pay anything), and then call another plumber, using some unusual (well, perhaps not so unusual) vocabulary in the process. They got to watch the plumber perform something like a colonoscopy to extract the guck from the main intestine of the house — the four inch pipe from house to sewer. He drilled in with a metal tube, bringing up tree roots and other things unspeakable.
A house’s plumbing is similar to a human’s digestive system — both bring in fresh, clean water and expel filth. The condition of a house’s plumbing reflects its owners perhaps more than any family photographs or tasteful décor. Our plumber observed sewage and other gunk which his giant tube collected and then spurted out into our garage. No amount of Mr. Clean is able to remove the smell. With his thick, latex-gloved fingers our plumber unwrapped butt wipes and sanitary-napkin pads from his muddy-looking drill pipe. Our house’s disgusting offal was our own disgusting offal. He told me that Nothing But Toilet Paper Should Go In The Toilet, and that even those products that advertise they are flushable are not flushable, much less the lady’s products that don’t claim to be flushable. I had to pass this information on to my daughter, who nearly perished with embarrassment.
Leaky faucets and slimy showers that don’t drain properly – no biggie! Such things are de rigueur at our house.
At least until my ten-year-old son had an inspiration one day. Having seen An Inconvenient Truth (and been more frightened by that than some other movies I don’t want to tell you I let him see), my son was disturbed by the leaking water. Hearing the drip drip drip of our kitchen faucet was like listening to Al Gore berate us. My son had some sort of epiphany, and he took a rubber band and wrapped it around the faucet handle, tethering it to the faucet. The leaking stopped.
Has your ten-year-old kid fixed your faucet lately? If not, perhaps you should abandon some of the soccer and basketball and use some of my Adversity Parenting techniques. Subject your kids to some bad plumbing. You never know what qualities, hidden in your kids, will be revealed.
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