Why I can never return to Harrisonville, Missouri

We learned many lessons through the tornado experience, some more life-changing than others.  On that night, we drove for three hours with our three kids and David’s two friends just trying to get across town to get the kids to safety.  Three hours … five kids … bathroom breaks were a given.  But in Joplin, there were no longer any bathrooms.  So we’d pull over in a somewhat discreet place – girls on one side of the van, boys on the other – and the kids learned survival rule number one:  Sometimes you just have to go outside.  This made a lasting and unexpected impression on our three-year-old, Molly. 

It’s also the reason why I can never return to Harrisonville, Missouri. 

It all started with a quick phone call from my husband, Keith, when we were caravanning home after picking up the children from my parent’s house.  He had the girls in one car and I had David in the other.  It was a simple enough message, “Molly says she has to go potty right now. I’m pulling over in Harrisonville and I’ll fill up while you run her in.” Piece of cake. 

We pull over at the gas station we always use on trips to or from my parent’s house.  It’s clean; the people are nice; we like it.  I go and get Molly and she says, “Daddy says I go outside.” Keith explained to me that he’d told her if we didn’t make it to the gas station he’d pull the car over and she’d just have to go outside.  I reassured Molly that we’d made it in time and she can go inside.  I picked her up and walked her quickly into the bathroom and she kept telling me, “But Daddy said! He said I’m going outside.”

We got to the bathroom and I, recognizing the urgency of the situation, kept my don’t-touch-anything speech brief, constructed the toilet paper seat cover and set her little self down on the toilet.


She looked at me and said, “I’m not going on the potty.  I’m going outside.  Daddy said.” And then she clenched down and held it.  You’d think when you have to go that badly you can only do this for a second or two.  Not Molly.  That little girl has the will of an ox, a stubborn ox in a bad mood.

Finally we got up, washed hands and left the bathroom.  I took her out to where Keith was filling up the cars and started to tell him we had a little problem and that it was mostly his fault.

The next thing we knew we looked down and in front of all of God’s creation, the nice grand-moms in the white convertible, the traffic on the busy street to the side of us, and the four rows of other cars filling up …

Molly had pulled her pants down and squatted down right in front of the pump.  She was going potty outside.  Her daddy told her.

Keith leapt into action, grabbed Molly under her knees and held her in a granny-style bowling position.  (For those of you without children or those of you with children but more class, this position will keep her shoes clean.)

I leapt into action … and hid.  I ran around the other side of my mom-van, opened the side door and, like an ostrich in the sand, put my head inside the van.  That’s right, I left Molly and Keith and I hid.  I’m not proud.

Once Molly was done, Keith, very careful not to make eye contact with the convertible grannies, growled at me that we need to leave right now.  Of course we did. 

Never to return again.

Face of an angel, will of an ox.

33 thoughts on “Why I can never return to Harrisonville, Missouri

  1. Not returning to places our kids have dropped trou would pretty much rule out any travel whatsoever. It’s not a big deal at our house: you’re outside, it’s rural, you just go. Great for potty training, actually. But then teaching discretion can be a bit more challenging.

    Had to grab Hellcat in the granny-style bowling position and run behind a garbage can at baseball practice last week. Only wish I could have stuck my head in a van. Nice move.

  2. That’s hilarious. I’ve got a related story from years past that involves two boys standing on the side of an above ground swimming pool, side by side, peeing through the openings in the railing. I was responsible for both but couldn’t stay underwater as long as you could stay in that van.

  3. Both my husband and I laughed hard at this one. Awesome. Let me pour you some wine and tell ya ’bout the 5yo and the empty soda bottle, and the bus in England. 🙂

    1. The camping and long, road trip aspect is definitely the silver lining in this moment. Now if we could just turn that obedience towards things like eat your veggies, don’t call your brother an alien, or pee in the toilet.

  4. Sure you can! Haven’t you watched enough movies to know you cut your hair, dye it, get a wig, steal a car, etc? 🙂 Besides, no one saw you anyway, remember? This too shall pass. We hope. Thanks for sharing, though Molly might not be so happy about that in a few years.

  5. Hopefully, Molly’s determination to “always obey her dad”, will never leave her. You go Molly!

  6. Amy! Omigosh! Hilarious, My husband created a “pee-pee hole” when we were first potty training Monkey. It was a little pipe to nowhere near the side of our house, and it started out as a joke. Monkey loved using it so much, he didn’t want to pee in the potty!

    Um, but eventually he did.

    He did pinch a loaf at a playground once. I ain’t going back there either.

    You may have just inspired a blog. I’ll give you street cred for the idea if my soon to be 12 year-old will let me write it. 😉

    1. I’m so glad to hear that Monkey moved past the pipe although that is purely brilliant potty training! Who could resist peeing in a pipe? (Well, I can but you know …)
      A friend of mine just told me her child’s loaf pinching story while on a tennis court. Amazing how common those are.
      I would love to read that blog post. And so proud to have been a part of such poetic inspiration! Fingers crossed that the 12-year-old gives the thumbs up!

  7. I just snorted coffee straight onto the computer screen! God, I love you! I love you for perfectly describing how Keith held Molly (Granny-Bowling style! LOVE it!) and for hiding.

    What a fun way to begin my day! Thank your for this. And please thank Molly!!

  8. I love Molly! When you gotta go, you gotta go!

    Thanks for my evening giggle, Amy…Jim thought I’d lost my mind, but he was laughing too after I read your post out loud…


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